UAE | Health

Push for review of maternity leave law to increase Emirati birth rate

"The number of Emiratis is not going to grow," Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, FNC member and head of the Committee of Education, Youth Culture and Media, said.

  • By Iman Sherif, Staff Reporter
  • Published: 00:00 July 26, 2010
  • Gulf News

Dr Amal Al Qubaisi
  • Image Credit: Gulf News Archive
  • Women are hesitant to get married and have babies because of the job situation in the UAE, says Dr Amal Al Qubaisi.

Abu Dhabi:  A member of the Federal National Council 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," Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, FNC member and head of the Committee of Education, Youth Culture and Media, 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 explained. The FNC member is calling for a complete reconsideration of the UAE law regarding pregnant women and maternity leave.

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Until recently, the law in the UAE granted a pregnant woman two months' fully paid leave, two months of half salary leave, and two months' unpaid leave. In 2007, a new law emerged stating that a pregnant woman would now get 45 days paid maternity leave and allowed 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. Considering that 53 per cent of the federal organisation's workforce is women, it doesn't seem right," Dr Amal said.

According to her, this reduction does not equal what is happening globally, as Unicef recommends an average four months of fully paid leave for women.

Productivity levels

"Other countries, Egypt for example, allow women three months of paid maternity leave and two years unpaid leave. Sweden permits their women 16 months of paid maternity leave, and two years of parental leave shared between the father and the mother and funded by the government. Kuwait and Bahrain also provide women with between one to two years parental leave," she added.

"Women are hesitant to get married and have babies because of the job situation in the UAE. Some companies prefer not to hire pregnant women, while others automatically exclude pregnant women from promotions. Their reasons are always fear of the woman's situation affecting the productivity level of her work and therefore negatively impacting the company," she further added.

"However, a compromise can be reached if the laws on maternity leave are revised. Women shouldn't have to face the difficult and unfair choice between a career and a child. I myself was pregnant during the elections, it did not at all affect my work and did not prevent me from winning the elections," she added.

Apart from the general increase of time of maternity leave, Dr Amal's other requests include modifications in father's leave as well. The current law regarding fathers in the UAE grants them three days off work subsequent to their child's birth. The FNC member asks for those three days to be extended to two weeks. In addition, she is requesting a new regulation; should a mother pass away during delivery, her husband should get longer paid leave.

Dr Amal's other proposals include the mother being granted longer leave than usual in the case of premature birth or the birth of a mentally/physically disabled child.

"Another reason women are hesitant to conceive is because they worry that even if they have successful careers, it will negatively impact their child. The mother will have to depend on a babysitter or a housekeeper, and this can lead to her child's upbringing lacking crucial elements like religion, principles and values as well as correct language awareness. The introduction of nurseries at work premises — which came out in a decree in 2006 but was never applied — is an uncomplicated way of resolving that problem. It will also result in reduction of the woman's 18 hours of lactation as her child will be on the same premises and it won't take as long," she added.

Humaid Al Qutami, the Minister of Education and chairman of the Federal Human Resources Authority, was supportive granting women the right to a leave of 100 unpaid days that can include her annual leave. He promised that women's organisations will be able to take part in the decision- making on such issues.

— with inputs from Mayar Raouf, Staff Reporter

Would you like to see maternity leave extended? Have you had to choose between motherhood and your career? What other issues do new mother's face?

Comments (44)

  1. Added 17:59 July 26, 2010

    I fully agreed to this, I hope that the goverment will take the revised of the maternity leave at least 4 - 6 months. To all the mothers and pregnant women please let us pray that the government will implement soon as possible. I am due in couple of months i hope i can avail this, it is not easy for me to send my child back home since this is my first baby.

    Aehl , Sharjah, Afghanistan

  2. Added 17:25 July 26, 2010

    It would be a great help if these maternity laws will be revised. Like in my case,I delivered under cesarian section and 45 days is not enough to rest and heal my wound as well as taking care of my baby. After 45 days vacation,I go back to work and my wound is still fresh and I'm still in pain. But the most difficult part is that,I need to leave my baby to a baby sitter and hoping that she will take good care in replace of me.Now my son is already 4 years old,and until now I was still in trauma to get pregnant again and experienced the same situition before.

    Anonymous, Abu dhabi, Afghanistan

  3. Added 17:03 July 26, 2010

    WISH THE LAW IS IMPLIMENTED VERY SOON, COZ WOMEN CAN TOO HAVE A BALANCE IN CAREER & FAMILY...

    ANONYMOUS, dubai, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 16:47 July 26, 2010

    I agree and since I am pregnant I need to know my rights thanks

    AW, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 16:29 July 26, 2010

    This is a real big issue every working women in UAE is facing. This should be considered with top most priority and some immediate changes should be made. Atleast a 3 months leave should be granted or an option of working part time should be given beyond 45 days till a period of 6 months to one year as other countries have.

    Vidya, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 15:59 July 26, 2010

    Yes, I agree with you all......This law should be reconsidered. It will be really helpful if it's become flexible.

    Nita, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 15:33 July 26, 2010

    Thanks for raising the concern, Rules have to be changed and set same for the residents and the citizens.

    Rajesh, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  8. Added 15:31 July 26, 2010

    i'm glad that atleast now they think about this issue, i gave birth in feb 2010 and only got 45 days paid leave i can take more days(as my company was good enough) but with no pay, it was very tuff and as we cant bring our families more than 3 months so my family stay here only three month and after that we arrange baby sitter for baby, and in all this time till now we spend so much money till now we have credits, long thing in short that please make the flixibility with visa rules for families or baby sitters orelse pay us for long timeso we can stay with our kids and feed them .

    Mrs Kanaan, dubai, United Arab Emirates

  9. Added 15:15 July 26, 2010

    I totally agree with this one.I started leaving my daughter to the baby sitter when she is only 2months old.I need to bring her to baby sitter because i need to go back to work or else i will lose my job.i really hope that this rule will be implemented soon

    Sweet, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  10. Added 15:14 July 26, 2010

    There is a dire need for changes in maternity law in UAE.45 days are just not enough for a child to be taken care of by a house keeper.A woman has to think twice before joining back a 8 hrs job or take care of her child. If breastfeeding is to be promoted the first step has to be increase in maternity leave.And it is need of the hour to apply this law to everyone.After all mothers are mothers. Other things which can help are fllexi timing and childcare or breastfeeding rooms in offices.

    Anu, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

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