Dr Ahmad Al Hammadi Image Credit: Courtesy: Al Sharq

Manama: A Qatari consultant has called for giving working mothers one-year fully paid maternity leave to look after their babies.

“All working mothers who give birth should be given a paid leave between six months and a year to be fully dedicated to breastfeeding their babies,” Dr Ahmad Al Hammadi, head of General Paediatrics Section at Hamad Medical Corporation, said.

Such a decision would have a good economic impact on Qatar in the short term by reducing expenses to treat children suffering from poor feeding, he said in remarks published by local Arabic daily Al Sharq on Monday.

“In the long term, it will help reduce the number of cases suffered by adults as a result of feeding problems. This in turn will contribute to reducing the size of spending on the health care needed by these people and to addressing the lack of productivity caused by their absence from work,” he said.

Qatar health and educational authorities have been pushing for actively providing support to mothers to improve breastfeeding practices in the country.

Last year, the University of Calgary – Qatar’s (UCQ) Undergraduate Research Experience Programme received $60,000 (Dh220,374) in funding from the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) to explore and improve breastfeeding practices in Qatar.

Under Qatar’s labour law, employed women are entitled by law to a 50-day paid maternity leave, provided they have worked for the employer for a full year.

The law states that up to 15 days of the leave can be taken before the birth, but at least 35 days must be taken after the birth before returning to work.

The pre-delivery leave is subject to a medical certificate issued by a licensed physician stating the probable date of delivery.

If the medical condition of the mother prevents her from resuming her work after expiry of her leave, she will be on leave without pay. The leave cannot exceed 60 consecutive or interrupted days.

New mothers are also entitled to an hour’s ‘nursing time’ each working day for the first year of the baby’s life, which can be taken at the time the mother chooses.