Image Credit: Ramachandra Babu/©Gulf News

Regime

Times have changed, flexibility works

I think it is very subjective — in Singapore we have up to 60 days of maternity leaves, so to me it is ideal. However, some companies here offer 90 days and others offer 45 days, so I think the conditions are quite different.

As a manager, I would give a longer maternity leave because it provides motivation for the staff to continue working and to know that they have a good company that takes care of them. But not every company offers these — I have some friends who talk about how some companies that do not offer any extra concession whether it is flexible work timings or longer leaves.

However, companies should consider longer leaves, even if it includes reduced pay. Times have evolved and it is no longer like the regimented timelines we had in the past. Things should change and I would allow employees working from home or offering them greater flexibility.

From Mr Sebastian Tan
Project manager at a Dubai-based company

 

Productivity

Longer leaves can make sense financially

Laws are always meant for guidance, to establish the minimum standard. Beyond that, it is up to companies to manage their employees and for the company’s benefit the employees should be happy. Some companies offer longer maternity leaves to their employees and there can be other scenarios through which they can offer flexibility to their employees.

A newborn coming into the world is always special and that allows special gestures to come along from the companies as well. Of course, there are companies that are stringent with the policies and only offer 45 days leave, but then in some places the employees can try to club their annual leave with the maternity leave. So, even though the employee does get more than 45 days, it is not like the company has offered an extended maternity leave.

As for companies that voluntarily offer longer leaves, that is a welcome measure because, to be honest, 45 days is never enough. You tend to take your leave a week before your delivery so five days are already used up. You can then add the days you will spend at the hospital and after that you are left with a lot fewer days. From that point of view, I would say 90 days would be better.

It does have a financial impact because you are paying the employee a complete salary for the time she is off, but they will have to continue managing their business. So, it can work more easily for bigger companies, which can factor the cost in as a marketing cost. Offering longer leaves is better for the employee and helps companies with their brand. It is probably not practical for smaller companies financially so they will have to evaluate the practicality of offering longer leaves.

From a professional perspective, I have seen that employee retention and work environment are both better, when companies voluntarily offer better leaves, because it improves the work-life balance.

Life, in general, has become quite stressful nowadays and longer leaves that add to an employee’s personal time tends to enhance their productivity because they tend to give more at work as they are happier. So, longer leaves make sense even for companies.

From Ms Anusha Dasarathi
Manager of internal audit at an Abu Dhabi based company

 

Ethics

Moterhood is not easy, companies should be supportive

My company offers 60 days of paid maternity leave, by policy. I am aware that by law, we only have to offer 45 days, but it was a very natural decision for me to take when I was setting up my own company considering that I came from a banking background, where they gave up to 60 days of maternity leave and having a bit of exposure having lived and worked in North America, where they go beyond three months. So, we said, it is fair to offer 60 days of maternity leave and if the employee wants to club their annual leave, they can do that, too. So, they can take up to 82 days of paid leave.

When it comes to running the business, I think it works out for us. We have a small setup — the number of employees we have is under 10. So, when one of my employees had to go on maternity leave, we hired someone for three months. So, we found someone who had experience in the same field and was willing to work on a temporary basis. So, financially, it did not really hit us much.

I think the decision to offer a longer maternity leave is more ethical than strategic. We all have mothers, sisters and wives and keeping in mind that I, too, am a father of two girls, I have seen the process of motherhood. It is not easy, whether before or after the delivery and you need some time to recover.

In our company, we are pretty flexible. What matters is transparency between the manager and the employee, so even our staff makes sure they deliver in advance and ensure proper handover if they are going for longer leaves. They are proactive with their work because they like how flexible the environment is. So, productivity does not suffer.

From Mr Faisal Mushtaq
Business owner living in Dubai

 

Work culture

Do you really want to dread going to work?

As a relatively new business owner, I have not yet had one of my employees take maternity leaves. However, the standard employment contract we have offers the mandatory 45 days maternity leave. However, after reflecting on the issue, should I get to the point where one of my team members is going on a maternity leave, I know how hard it can be to get back to full-time work after giving birth.

As a company, one of the things that we have installed is a ‘kids’ corner’. My long term goal is to have an on-site nursery, so that people can bring in their children to work because I know that the leave is not long enough. But I am seeing a change the flexibility that companies offer.

It is also part of the values, the work environment and office culture we try to establish, especially since we are in the growth period. Over the past three and a half years, I have gone from working on my own to having a staff of around 9 people. In everything that we do, we try to offer flexibility, because it helps with productivity. That is extremely important to me. Currently, I only have one team member who has children and the fact that she can attend Sports Day at her children’s school or leave early in case there is an emergency is important. So, I don’t track her hours. But I also know, she goes above and beyond in her job role because of that. So, it helps us build better work relationships.

This is so important at work — do you really want to dread going to work? Do you want it to be an awkward question to ask your manager if you can attend your child’s Sports Day? Family is the most important thing. If you are happy at home, you will be a happier and more productive team member at work. Also, as a manager, it doesn’t sit well with me to be the person who would say “No, you can’t go to a Parent’s Evening at your child’s school”. But I also know that this is not how things always work.

Having a nine-month old baby myself, I know that it is a big change. I thought I would get back to work quickly, and pop in to work for a couple of days a week initially. However, when people joke about how it takes hours to get out of the house with a child, it really is true.

Sometimes employers here forget that you work to live and don’t live to work. Even though you spend 90 per cent of your time at work, family time is also important, especially here where you don’t necessarily have an extended family that can offer support.

From Ms Rosa Bullock
Founder and PR guru at a Dubai-based company

 

Gulf News asked: How long do you think maternity leave should be?

• 45 days 5%
• 3 months 46%
• 6 months 29%
• One year 20%

Have Your Say: How many days of maternity leave does your company offer? Do you think maternity leaves should be longer than 45 days? How do you think companies can support their employee’s wellbeing? To share your views on this topic and join us in future debates, write to readers@gulfnews.com