Muscat: A number of new fathers have been granted paternity leave in Oman. The privilege was granted, in what is believed to be for the first time in the Sultanate, after trade union leaders struck a deal with employers.
Omani fathers were given three days of leave upon the birth of their child—a move which the federation would like to be made more formal.
Women working in the private sector currently enjoy a special 50-day maternity leave covering periods before and after delivery, with full salary. However, this leave cannot be used more than three times during the employee’s service with the employer, unless she has moved to another firm.
The Ministry of Manpower has been firm in its protection of women’s rights in the workplace. The rules regarding maternity leave are stipulated in Labour Law No. 35/2003, Article 83.
The provision for maternity leave is in place, as it is only natural for women to need rest to regain their health and strength after childbirth. Mothers also need time to take care of their infant children and breastfeed them.
The importance of establishing a bond between mother and child during the latter’s infancy has prompted the General Federation of Oman Trade Unions (GFOTU) to follow up and research the condition of female workers in the private sector.
Through its research, the GFOTU found that “there is a commitment by employers to grant their workers maternity leave, although there are a few complaints”.
Cases regarding maternity leave that reach the GFOTU, whether through trade unions or direct complaints from female employees, involve “claims to increase the period of leave to more than 50 days and to increase the number of times that working women are entitled to take leave to more than three times,” according to an official from the federation.
This corresponds with the findings of the Ministry of Manpower gathered through its inspection of private establishments.
“The Ministry attaches great importance to the rights of women working in the private sector and strives to improve the relationship between the worker and the employer,” said Salim Al Badi, Director General of Labour Welfare at the Ministry of Manpower.
“As a result of the field visits carried out by this directorate, no labour violations were observed for women working in the private sector,” he added.
Meanwhile, Civil Service Law No. 120/2004 allows female employees working in the public sector to take maternity leave up to five times throughout their service.
The GFOTU has been working on increasing the length of the leave and increasing the number of times the female worker is entitled to the leave, with the goal of making it the same as the number listed in the Civil Service Law.
“There have been cases where the General Federation, through dialogue and negotiations with employers, managed to reach agreements to increase the duration of the leave and entitlement to more than three times, and to grant women workers special breastfeeding hours for a period of six months, one year, or more,” said an official from the federation.
The GFOTU also negotiated, giving working fathers a special leave of three days when their wives give birth.
According to the National Centre for Statistics and Information, there were 63,013 women working in the private sector as of May 2018. A further 72,917 women worked in the public sector, according to the Ministry of Civil Service.
The law also protects the right of a pregnant woman to be absent from work because of a medical condition resulting from the pregnancy that makes her unable to return to work for a period not exceeding six months.
The female employee can also be given special leave without pay for up to one year to allow her appropriate time to care for her child.
Article 118 of the Labour Law states that “anyone who contravenes the provisions of Part 5 shall be punished by a fine not exceeding OMR500,” stressed Al Badi.
The same article states that “if the previous offense is committed again within one year from the date of the judgment, the employer may be punished with imprisonment for a period not exceeding one month”.
The GFOTU expressed hope that “competent authorities will oblige employers to provide day-care facilities or nurseries for the children of workers within the workplace so that female workers can take care of their children and so they can have paid time to breastfeed their child.”