x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

FNC approves plan to lower women's retirement age

The Federal National Council's proposals could lead to a review of maternity leave and greater employment opportunities for people with special needs, as well as a lowering of the retirement age for women.

ABU DHABI // The Federal National Council [FNC] yesterday gave its approval to a series of proposals on employment in the federal government, including a controversial measure to lower the retirement age for women.

If also approved by the Cabinet, the proposals could lead to a review of maternity leave and greater employment opportunities for people with special needs.

According to the proposals, the government would have to inform federal employees three months before terminating their contracts.

Members admonished federal bodies for failing to hire enough disabled people, passing a proposal to force federal ministries to implement existing legislation that would increase their representation.

"Even in local government departments there is a lack of interest in people with special needs," said Jamal al Hay, a member from Dubai.

Khalifa bin Huwaidin, a member from Sharjah, called for specific quotas. The disabled, he said, were "denied and always marginalised in society."

The council also pushed for a review of maternity leave and breastfeeding breaks for mothers working in the government. Last week Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed, Ruler of Sharjah, signed a bill that extended paid maternity leave from 45 days to 60, and allowed for unpaid leave of 100 days.

A committee established under the Federal Authority for Human Resources and headed by Dr Amal al Qubaisi, a member from Abu Dhabi and an outspoken proponent of women's rights, is reviewing policies on women in the workplace.

A report released this month by the FNC's health, labour and social affairs committee said there was widespread disregard in government institutions for laws governing mothers on the job, so that they were often not allowed to take the 45 days maternity leave they were owed, or the full two hours a day they are allowed to breastfeed their newborns.

More than 100 federal bodies still do not have nurseries in the workplace, despite a law requiring them.

The FNC also asked the government to reduce the number of years after which a woman can retire from 20 to 15, and to consider abolishing the minimum retirement age for women, which is 50.

FNC members argue that women cannot balance work and family life because of the pressures of work.

The council also wants the government to implement a system that evaluates the performance of federal employees, to replace expatriates with Emiratis, and to attract Emiratis to technical jobs, such as medicine, where they are under-represented.