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UAE maternity leave needs addressing

UAE maternity leave needs addressing

Compared to other countries, it is paltry. The UAE law on maternity leave needs addressing, thinks Sam Potter, and not just to boost the Emirati population.

July 29, 2010 2:26 by

An article in Gulf News this week made a welcome call, even if the justifications were not necessarily correct, in my opinion.
The paper reports that a member of the UAE’s Federal National Council, Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, head of the Committee of Education, Youth Culture and Media, has said the maternity leave law must be reconsidered to encourage more Emiratis to have children.

“The number of Emiratis is not going to grow,” she said. “This is due to the fact that the mortality and birth rates in the UAE are equal, and while population increase is encouraged, it won’t happen unless birth rates rise.” She wants a complete reconsideration of the UAE law regarding pregnant women and maternity leave.

Until 2007, the law in the UAE granted a woman two months’ fully paid leave, two months of half salary leave, and two months’ unpaid leave. Then the current law emerged. It allows a woman 45 days paid maternity leave and then 18 hours per month for lactating purposes.

“When the law came out, no women’s organisations were consulted; in addition, it has been modified so maternity leave is reduced,” said Dr Amal. “Considering that 53 per cent of the federal organisation’s workforce is women, it doesn’t seem right.”

And she’s correct – it isn’t right. But not simply because changing the law might help increase the Emirati population (though I concede this is one of the areas in which the FNC must take an interest) but because it would be better for society as a whole to be more generous to new mothers; better for the women, better for the children, and quite possibly better for business too.

Writing as someone who has known a few pregnant women working in the UAE, I know what the outcome of the current maternity law is. The women leave to have their babies, telling their employer that they will return after 45 days. When the days are up and her salary has been paid, the woman announces she has changed her mind and will not be returning. And why would she? A new born baby needs more than six and a half weeks with its mother.

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  1. Randa on August 1, 2010 3:15 pm

    45 days ia not enough. Imagine a C-Section where the recovery is 42 days, leaving the mother 3 days to start enjoying motherhood. I know a woman who had to resign for 6 months and then join the company again. She did this twice in a span of 4 years! She’s lucky she got her job back.

  2. Andrew on August 2, 2010 7:01 am

    A colleague of mine became pregnant last year within the 12 month statutory minimum period stipulated for paid maternity leave. Whilst not qualifying for this she offered to take a period of unpaid leave, to return after 6 months.

    The management and HR refused this, only to offer her the chance to reapply for her job when she was ready. Leaving aside the fact that it’s insulting to her, we work in an industry where turnover of employee is high due to rapid development and consequent head hunting. To willingly forego talent in a situation that will cost you nothing is truly mindboggling.

  3. Lu on August 2, 2010 7:17 am

    while the world moves towards longer maternity leave and paternity leave, the UAE cannot cut down on it.
    instead of only thinking about companies, the law makers must put themselves in the shoes of the new parents. who came up with this law anyway? obviously not a parent!!

    the uae has proven to be a great place to bring up children, this short maternity leave should not get in the way! change the law!

  4. Miss Anne Thropic on August 2, 2010 9:22 am

    With employers deciding what to do about pregnant employees seemingly on a whim, it is little wonder a lot of women try and hold off on even telling their boss they are pregnant. Women should not be scared to start families for fear of losing their livelihoods. It all makes me think very hard about whether I would ever raise kids here.


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