Maternity leave a comprehensive overview

Opinion Sunday 26/May/2024 20:45 PM
By: Reem Noor Al Zadjali
Maternity leave a comprehensive overview

It is essential for every mother to rest, recover post-delivery, and care for the newborn. The International Labour Organisation mandates a minimum of 14 weeks (98 days) of maternity leave and recommend increasing it to at least 18 weeks.

In Oman, the new labour law under Royal Decree No. 53/2023 extended maternity leave from 50 days to 98 days of fully paid maternity leave, covering pre- and post-birth periods. This applies even to women on temporary or training contracts and includes adoptive mothers of infants under three months old. Additionally, women can request up to one year of unpaid leave for childcare.

Including the post-maternity leave, nursing mothers are entitled to one hour daily for breastfeeding, as part of working hours for one year. Comparatively, Oman offers the longest maternity leave in the Gulf region. For instance, Bahrain grants 60 days of paid maternity leave, while Saudi Arabia provides 70 days. In Egypt, maternity leave extends to 112 days.

Western countries such as the UK, Norway, Germany, Greece, Sweden, and Japan offer even more generous maternity leaves, ranging from 270 to 525 days.

Maternity leave is crucial for newborns, allowing mothers to adapt to their needs and balance personal and professional life, enhancing their ability to balance between work and family responsibilities.

Without sufficient leave, mothers may struggle to balance work and family, especially women who do not have family support, leading to reliance on private nurseries for newborns or domestic help.

Increasing leave days, as seen in Oman’s new labour law, reflects the country’s commitment to supporting women and family unity.

However, extended maternity leave might have a negative impact on women’s employment, promotions, and annual bonuses. While maternity leave supports new mothers during critical times, it can also temporarily disrupt their career progression and affect their immediate productivity upon return.

Employers, especially in small businesses, may face additional costs and workforce shortages during maternity leave, here companies need to adapt to an employee’s absence and reintegration, here ,companies need to adapt to an employee’s absence and reintegration, which may impact workflow and team collaboration, in such case companies will need financial planning if a new person is temporarily employed for that period of time or have a  clear task distribution to mitigate the absence.

Questions arise about whether longer a maternity leave will affect women’s employment opportunities, especially young graduates planning to marry, and if there will be mandatory hiring quotas for women based on merit rather than gender.

Despite equality under the law, employers naturally weigh both positive and negative aspects of hiring, including the implications of a 98-day maternity leave and the possibility of extended unpaid leave.

Some European countries address these issues by offering shared parental leave, which is a modern policy allowing both parents to split the leave period sharing the responsibility of caring for their newborn.

This approach minimises the career impact on mothers, particularly if they are the primary earners and gives fathers an active role in early childcare, fostering a strong bond between father and child from the start leading to more balanced parental involvement throughout the child’s life.

This policy may also help break down traditional gender roles that often see mothers as the primary caregivers and promotes gender equality both at home and in the workplace, encouraging a more balanced distribution of childcare duties.

Shared parental leave can mitigate the career impact on mothers by reducing the length of time they need to be away from work, maintaining their professional momentum and can prevent potential discrimination related to extended absences.

Despite progress, women still seek equality in leadership roles, emphasising the need for supportive work policies that balance professional and personal responsibilities.

Over time, the impact of maternity leave on women’s employment will become clearer, emphasising the importance of fostering inclusive workplaces.

In conclusion, maternity leave is a critical support system for new mothers, enabling them to care for their newborns and recover from childbirth while balancing their personal and professional lives. Despite the challenges it may pose to women’s career progression and employers’ operational continuity, the benefits to both mother and child are undeniable.

We must recognise and honour the resilience and dedication of women who successfully navigate their professional and personal responsibilities, achieving leadership positions and making significant contributions to their fields.

Their success is a testament to their strength and capability, proving that with the right support, women can excel and thrive in all areas of life.