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Superhuman, rich and/or self-employed women – spending time and bonding with their newly born baby is important for every mother. Even though the mother and the baby are physically separated at birth, the emotional oneness never fades away.
With each passing year, an increasing number of women are entering the workforce and maternity rights have become an integral part of the labour law of any country.
Within the UAE, paid maternity leave is different for those in the private and the public sector, and the working conditions set by the company once the woman resumes work depend on the policies of the company.
The law in the country defines the minimum maternity rights of women, but let’s take a look at the sectors/zones in the UAE where employees get the best deal.
Last month, the DIFC saw amendments to its Employment Law, stating and clarifying what is due to employees.
According to the amendments, minimum maternity leave as due to female employees in the DIFC free zone has been amended from three calendar months to 65 working days (excluding the weekends).
“The amendments came into force on December 23, 2012, and are immediately effective,” said Sara Khoja, Partner at law firm Clyde & Co.
Some employees seem a bit confused by the amendments, thinking that the leave has been cut short. However, this is not the case, say lawyers.
The DIFC maternity leave entails 33 days on full pay and 32 days on half-pay. This is not much different from the previous version of the law, says Clyde & Co.
“Previously, the law stated the benefit as being three months, half of which was on full pay and the other half on 50 per cent pay. The three months was three calendar months, the amended law says working days so it's not less favourable, employees haven't lost anything. The amendment clarifies the entitlement and makes it easier to administer for employers and for employees,” Khoja told Emirates 24|7.
“Instead of three months (i.e. approximately 90 calendar days) the maternity leave allowance is now 65 working days. On the basis that most employees in the DIFC work a 5 day week, out of a total of 90 calendar days (i.e. 12.9 weeks) around 26 days will be (non-working) weekend days.
“If you add together 65 (working) days and 26 (weekend) days, the result is 91 days. The change does not, therefore, seem to me to make much difference and may - when days of public holiday are taken into account - even work slightly in favour of the maternity leave-taker.
“Similarly, the existing maternity leave remuneration rule (i.e. first 45 calendar days at full regular remuneration rate and following 45 calendar days at 50 per cent of said rate) will not be greatly affected,” explained Alexander McGeoch, Head of employment at Hadef & Partners explained to this website.
DIFC Employment Law provides for female employees who have served a year’s continuous employment by the eighth week before the expected week of childbirth.
Those in the public sector have a few days less than DIFC employees but their entire leave period is fully paid, making it a bit sweeter for new mothers.
“The public sector initial maternity leave allowance is 60 days with full pay initially and with a further allowance of 100 days of unremunerated leave thereafter,” Alexander McGeoch, Head/Employment & General legal services, at Hadef & Partners, told this website in October last year.
“Within the private sector, maternity leave allowance is 45 days on full pay, subject to a minimum period of continuous service of one year. Maternity leave may be taken during the entire period of confinement (that is to say, partly before and partly after delivery).
“Thereafter the leave can, with the support of appropriate medical reports, be extended for a period of up to 100 consecutive or non-consecutive days without pay, if the mother is not in a fit enough condition to return to work, or to work continuously, for reasons connected with the birth,” explained McGeoch.
The law largely favours biological mothers but couples who adopt a child too have their rights defined in the DIFC. DIFC Employment Law provides that a female employee adopting a child younger than three months is entitled to the same maternity leave as a biological mother, says Khoja.
Paternity rights are largely limited to the public sector. “There is no paternity leave allowance for private sector employees. However, public sector employees who become fathers are entitled to three consecutive working days of paternity leave,” said McGeoch.
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