By Shaima AlTamimi (@iamshaima)
The UAE’s leadership has been instrumental in the growth of women entering the workforce by providing ample support to kick-start the dreams of ambitious women through educational funding, training, and attractive job placements. Nonetheless, despite such initiatives, the government may have overlooked one major issue; women resorting to long breaks from the workforce due to unfriendly maternity laws.
Ironically, the most attractive maternal leave policies are implemented within Europe. Since April 2010, the UK provides women (citizens or non citizens) a year’s paid maternity leave with the first 6 weeks paid at 90% of full pay and the remainder at a fixed rate. They also get an additional unpaid leave of up to 4 weeks per year by either parent. A friend of mine, who happens to be a single mother, is currently benefiting from this policy, and has expressed immense satisfaction in bonding with her baby without the stress of hiring help.
Subsequently, such policies ensure child to parent bonding, whilst fostering healthy child development within the infant’s life, a right that should be embedded in society to ensure the success of nurturing the future generations.
In stark contrast, women in UAE get 45 days of paid leave and a one-hour reduction in working time for nursing.
As the west excel onto further improving maternity laws for mothers, one can not help but wonder why this issue is not given enough attention in a region where motherhood is of monumental value in both cultural and religious contexts.
True, some women have the choice of resigning from their jobs in order to spend quality, uninterrupted time with their babies. However, for some, the luxury of giving up a steady source of income is simply a mythological concept. Therefore, women are in dire need of improved policy system in regards to maternity leave.
Yes, it is something that will require corporate and government spending, albeit it is money well spent. However, if companies do not feel obliged to pay for extended maternity leave in lieu of reducing costs, the least that can be done to support female employees is a longer time of half salary or unpaid leave beyond the 45 days. It is unfair to be faced with the ultimatum of continuing your job or missing out on the earliest stages of your child’s development. Where is the boost in employees’ morale there?
There are several factors that further halt the progression of women in the workforce. It is worth noting that a decade ago, being a working mother in the UAE was less stressful than it is now, since several companies operated from 7am to 2 pm. However, with the sudden boom of companies on the 9 to 5 run, being a working mother has become difficult to juggle without support from the in-laws or live-in maids.
It seems authorities forgot to consider the social implications of a 9 to 5 job. Mothers can no longer be home in time for lunch with their kids nor have the energy to start their homework at a decent time. How does that support our mothers or family orientated culture? To top it off, there is a distinct lack of day care nurseries that are within close range of work places. Ideally, such day care centers would have to be located in the same building as their offices, for mothers to be able to peek in every once in a while.
It comes as no surprise that women are mocked by society for transferring the child-rearing burden to the maids. Some women are patronized by their employers when they leave work early to care for their kids. With the further influx of foreign managers in the UAE, it has come to my attention that many do not realize that Arabs have a family oriented society, yet with that said, why does it feel like the policies implemented are in contrast to Arab culture?
Adjusting policies is more than just giving extra weeks off, but also about ensuring the protection of new or expectant mothers against corporate discrimination in promotions. For authorities to put together successful policies, they will have to conduct research with women in organizations, create focus groups and consult women who have been through such forms of disloyalty within the workforce.
Perhaps the Federal National Council (FNC) need to treat such campaigns as a top priority, rather than work on fighting for early female retirement in the workplace as announced in the news recently. Not that it is not welcome, however, there are issues of vital importance to tackle first, one of them being improved maternity leave policies. This will no doubt strengthen family relationships and enhance employee loyalty in the workplace.
May 2011’s issue:
Latest posts by Shaima Al Tamimi (@iamshaima) (see all)
- The Business Of Culture And Food With Shaikha Al Kaabi (Founder of #Meylas) - September 8, 2015
- Documenting the Relationship of Khaleejis in London - July 1, 2013
- A Suggestion for Tackling Obesity in the UAE - March 1, 2013