Call for extended maternity leave in private sector

By DG Staff

SHARJAH 11 November 2019: Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of Sharjah Baby Friendly Office, has called for extending maternity leave benefits for mothers working in the UAE’s private sector.

She said it will create a working environment conducive to expectant and new mothers, one that protects their rights and paves the way for unhindered development.

On the occasion of the centenary of the first international labour standards on maternity protection and coinciding with the National Breastfeeding Week observed in the UAE from November 6–10, Sheikha Bodour said: “There is no doubt that many private sector companies are fully commitment to providing a supportive work environment for working mothers, yet there remains a need to expand and continue these efforts to keep up with new challenges facing women in the workplace.”

“Extending maternity leave for the private sector is an essential step to achieving social justice and true women’s empowerment. For many women, motherhood is an essential element of life. We cannot truly empower women if we fail to protect maternity,” Sheikha Bodour added.

Sheikha Bodour stated: “Adopting the highest standards that safeguard the rights of working mothers, will in turn support the nation’s development process and women’s empowerment efforts. Under the UAE Labour Law, women working in the private sector are entitled to 45 days of full pay for maternity leave and dedicated breastfeeding hours for 18 months post-delivery.”

90-day leave

“More than five years ago, under the directives of H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, our emirate became the first in the UAE to grant a 90-day maternity leave to all mothers working in Sharjah’s government departments. It is because family systems are at the core of Sharjah’s vision of human-centric development,” Sheikha Bodour continued.

“The decision was related to our Baby Friendly Project (previously Baby Friendly Emirate Campaign) which was launched in 2011 following an Emiri decree by H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, with a view to establishing a healthy life for children and mothers by fostering a culture of breastfeeding in the emirate’s public places. Sharjah’s concerted efforts bore fruit when the emirate was named the world’s first Baby-Friendly City in 2015 by the World Health Organisation, WHO, and UNICEF,” the SBFO Chairperson further explained.

Bodour Al Qasimi

“Here in Sharjah and the UAE, the scope of maternity protection has been hugely expanded as a result of the relentless efforts of H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union, President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation, ‘Mother of the UAE’, and H.H. Sheikha Jawaher bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of Sharjah’s Supreme Council for Family Affairs, who have guided institutions and society as a whole to show unwavering commitment to the recognition of women’s rights and entitlements in all spheres of work and life,” Sheikha Bodour noted.

Sheikha Bodour concluded by saying: “Today, as the world celebrates 100 years since women won the right to paid leave relating to child birth enabled by the first gender equality international labour standard adopted at the first International Labour Conference in November 1919, we salute the women who made this possible with their strong advocacy for women’s rights.”

Over the course of its history, the ILO’s member States have adopted three Conventions on maternity protection (1919; 1952; 2000). These Conventions have progressively expanded the scope and entitlements of maternity protection at work and provided detailed guidance orienting national policy and action. So far, 72 ILO member States have ratified at least one of the maternity Conventions.