x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Working women back FNC member's call for longer maternity leave

The 45-day leave granted to new mothers working in the private sector in the UAE - if they have been at the company for more than a year - is short even by regional standards.

Dr Amal al Qubaisi, a Federal National Council, member from Abu Dhabi, called for changes to the labour laws.
Dr Amal al Qubaisi, a Federal National Council, member from Abu Dhabi, called for changes to the labour laws.

ABU DHABI // Ruba abu Obeidallah, 31, is expecting her second child in June. She says she is considering resigning from her job because her maternity leave is not enough. "I really don't want to resign," says the administrator at the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, "but it is going to be a double responsibility and from my experience with my first baby, I don't think I can bounce back to work in 45 days."

The 45-day leave granted to new mothers working in the private sector in the UAE - if they have been at the company for more than a year - is short even by regional standards. Qatar offers 50 days at full pay. Syria offers the same, but at half pay. Saudi Arabia allows women 10 weeks at either full or half pay depending on how long they have been employed. Yemen offers 60 days at full pay. Even the 60 days given to women in government jobs pale next to many European countries. Italy allows five months at 80 per cent pay. Norway offers a full year that may be split between parents. Croatian women can take 45 days before delivery and up to a year after.

Mrs abu Obaidallah says the law often forces women to choose between a job and a family, adding that some women cannot afford to give up a job. "They need the job, but then their families suffer," she said. "I may resign because my boss cannot allow me to take too much time off. Forty-five days is just not enough." Mrs abu Obeidallah, from Jordan, already has a three-year-old daughter. "With the first baby, you barely have any experience" she said. "There is no schedule for you or the baby. After 45 days you are still not sleeping well. It's not enough time. You are forced to leave your child in day care."

Her comments echo those of a senior member of the FNC last week. Dr Amal al Qubaisi said working women deserved better maternity benefits and called for labour laws to be amended. Dr Qubaisi said women - both nationals and expatriates - should be supported if they choose to have both a career and a family. "First of all, we want to push for a change in maternity leave," she said. "We need to increase it. We want women to be able to work and have a family. They should not have to choose one or the other. If we do not allow them time with their baby, they will not want to work."

Paternity leave in the UAE is often less than a week, and Dr al Qubaisi noted there are no allowances for parents who deliver premature or disabled babies. munderwood@thenational.ae hkhalaf@thenational.ae