The Labour Rights Institute (LRI), a Labour Advocacy Organisation, has said any move to impose on women workers the obligation to pay for their maternity leave with part of their pension contributions will be highly discriminatory.
It said the suggestion to that effect was a subtle attempt to blackmail the nation into accepting the situation where some employers cite the cost of paying maternity leave to justify their refusal to employ women.
A statement issued in Accra and signed by Mohammed Affum, Executive Coordinator, the LRI, said if the suggestion was well-intentioned, then the cost of maternity leave should be extended to fathers, some of whom enjoyed paid paternity leave.
It said at a time when the frontiers of maternity protection for women workers were being expanded in recognition of their productive and reproductive roles, the suggestion by the Deputy Chairperson of the National Labour Commission was regrettable.
The statement said assuming a woman worker enjoyed maternity leave three times in her working life and a total of nine months’ salary was, therefore, deducted from her pension contributions to pay for the leave, how much would be left for her to build on for her to receive appreciable retirement income knowing the paltry pensions paid to most Ghanaian workers.
It quoted the International Labour Organisation Convention (ILO) on Maternity Protection which was the third that was adopted by the international tripartite body in 1919.
It aims at promoting the health, safety and economic well-being of pregnant and nursing women workers for them to contribute to replenish the labour force for productive work.
“Over the years, the tripartite partners at the ILO – Governments, Employers’ Associations and Workers’ Unions have worked in unison to revise the Convention in 1952 and 1983 to offer more protection for pregnant and nursing women workers,” it said.
It said it was, therefore, disappointing that 100 years after the convention was adopted, there were calls for Ghanaian women workers to pay their maternity leave from their pension contributions, instead of the employer saying it would undermine the economic well-being of pregnant and nursing women workers and affect their health and safety.
The LRI said the contention that removing the financial burden of maternity leave on employers could motivate women workers to have children after getting employment was disingenuous.
“This claim is being made to justify the obnoxious and inhumane provisions in employment contracts of some employers that make it a ‘dismissible offence’ for women workers to have children without serving for a specified period,” it added.
Enforcement of Labour Act
The statement said currently, a lot of employers denied their women workers maternity leave with pay and re-engaged them after child birth, subject to availability of vacancy because state regulatory bodies were not resourced to enforce the relevant provisions in the Labour Act.
It described it as worrying, the claim by the Deputy Chair of the National Labour Commission (NLC), Mrs Rose Kakari-Annan, that in some advanced countries, women workers paid for their maternity leave from their pension contributions.
It said the deputy chairperson failed to consider the many social protection measures in those countries, including workplace nurseries and free medical care, among others.
It, therefore, called on the commission to publicly disassociate itself from the suggestion by its deputy chairperson, otherwise it would undermine the confidence of women workers in the impartiality of the commission in its adjudication of maternity protection disputes.