Maternity fund for private sector plan

A MATERNITY fund for female employees in Bahrain’s private sector has been proposed.

Four MPs, led by Sayed Falah Hashim, have recommended that the employer contribute every month an equivalent of 0.75 per cent of each female worker’s salary to the fund.

Its resources could be bolstered through penalties for late payments, donations, investments and state funding.

The fund could be used to cover the monthly wages of female employees on 60-day maternity leave, or when they take two hours off work daily to care for their newborns for six months.

The proposal was forwarded yesterday by Parliament chairwoman Fouzia Zainal to the services committee for review.

“It is unfortunate that employers in the private sector prefer male employees over women for reasons associated with pregnancy and childcare,” said Mr Hashim.

“Around 80 per cent of the unemployed Bahrainis are females, despite female-oriented jobs being available.

“The proposed fund would ensure a fair approach to the issue since the employer wouldn’t be burdened with paying the wages of a female employee on maternity leave or taking time off to care for her baby.

“In fact, the fund could encourage employers to hire women.

“It will come under the Social Insurance Organisation and see 0.75pc taken from just the employer besides other sources, and would be only used in case of maternity and baby-care time, through a month’s prior notice.”

MP Dr Hisham Al Asheeri, who is also a signatory to the proposal, said the move was in line with international, labour and human rights conventions.

“These conventions stipulate guarantees to ensure the working mothers’ rights are met,” he pointed out, adding that because of these rights, bosses were hesitant to employ women.

“However, if the issue of maternity and care is addressed through the fund, then more employers would be encouraged to take women on board.”

In February, a parliamentary proposal aimed at giving women working in the private sector two hours a day to care for their newborns for up to two years was approved unanimously and referred to the government to draft as law.

The amendment to the 2012 Private Sector Employment Law was opposed by labour and business authorities following concerns it could create a stigma in hiring women.

Under existing rules, women in the private sector are given two hours for six months followed by an hour a day until the baby is one year old.

The amendments aimed to give female employees in the private sector the same benefits as civil servants and security personnel.

The Labour and Social Development Ministry asked MPs to rethink the amendments because it would place financial burdens on private sector employers.

The Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry has also stated its opposition to the proposed move, explaining that businessmen would incur losses and would reduce chances of female employment.

The Supreme Council for Women has backed the move, but has asked legislators to impose more guarantees that the status of women would not be negatively affected and their jobs would be secure.

Also in favour of the move are Bahrain’s two trade federations and the Bahrain Women’s Association for Human Development.

Last month, a municipal proposal that would see male workers prevented from being hired at female clothing, tailoring and accessories shops in the Southern Governorate was approved.

The Southern Municipal Council said it had received complaints from families regarding the issue, adding that there were many unemployed Bahraini women who could take up such jobs.

The council unanimously approved the proposal and referred it to Industry, Commerce and Tourism Minister Zayed Alzayani for review.




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