What is happening with you is quite unfortunate. These cases were happening even when maternity leave was just for 12 weeks. With increase in number of weeks from 12 to 26, such cases are bound to multiply.
If you work in a "reputed bank", then you must have escalation procedure. I recommend you escalating this case to your superiors at the HO. If the HO also remains intractable or inexorable then you may approach the labour officer of your area to explain your problem. If the labour office also does not come to your rescue then you may write a letter to women and child welfare ministry. The ministry is quick in their responses (at least as of now).
Manpower cost is a major cost in the banking sector. In manufacturing sector, inventory carrying cost of the raw material or of finished goods is a major cost. However, you do not have any inventory. The only inventory you have is human inventory. That is why, HR in banking sector comes under pressure to reduce the manpower cost. They in turn pressurise branch managers to reduce this cost. However, cost reduction initiatives is no excuse for prohibiting to take maternity leave or continue in the employment itself during the pregnancy.
A radical thought. Compensation is for the work done. That can be decided by mutual agreement, law, market or other parameters. In India, we have many payments to be made by employer even when an employee is not working. This includes leave pay, paid holidays, bonus, gratuity, accident compensation, and maternity benefit. One way we accept other payments for not working, we at times increase the quantum or percentage by agreement. But when it comes to maternity benefit, we become conservative.
The effect of amendment is bound to be not employing women in that age, asking them to resign and reemploying them later, or somehow avoid the liability in law.
But consider, in the total cost of employees, how much is the maternity benefit cost? And will the woman employee work less, or delay work when she resumes work?
Under the concept of welfare state, and popular government, we cannot avoid this. Accept the reality and act accordingly. No need to be upset and fight at some cost.
HR Advisor and Union Leader.