The PN Government, through the Ministry of Labour, in the last few months of their reign, decided to gazette in the employment Act 1955, a 98-day paid maternity leave.
Whilst it can be appreciated that stated intention is to provide gender diversity and fair treatment, was there deeper consideration of the outcome of such a move?
Most medium to smaller organisations have provided 60 days of paid maternity to their lady staff. However, the extension of another 38 days which may works out to an average 26 extra working days of paid leave (after taking into consideration 1 public holiday).
Larger organisations have already in place between 90 to 120 days maternity leave due to their larger workforce.
Effects on Organisations
Micro entrepreneurs with 3-4 staff, a small private limited company or smaller non-profit-organisation may have challenges in getting temporary staff and maintaining the income of the organisation. An extension is a huge cost in terms shortage of manpower and increased manpower cost for an outsourced temporary.
Larger companies and the government departments, with its vast manpower may have already implemented such a move and perhaps, provided more, eg 6 months maternity leave. They have the manpower to cover the tasks of the staff on maternity.
However, in a larger organization who hires more women, a manufacturing plant for example, if 10% of their staff takes maternity leave, it will certainly affect their production cost.
This may result in the organization passing its cost of operations and goods to their customers and clients.
Will this indirectly encourage potential or inadvertent bias when hiring married women who are of child-bearing age? I am sure many such organisations are crunching numbers to determine whether it would be better for them to automate than to pay maternity leave.
Effects on the Staff and her Team Members
A salaried leader may be able to do this by delegating her work and checking in her staff from time-to-time. However, mid to lower rank staff maybe disadvantaged after taking this time off work as she may find it challenging to catch up with the dynamic changes at today’s workplace after the 98 days. At the same time, her team members may find themselves slowed down to accommodate the pace of the new mother.
Civil servants will enjoy an additional 8 days to their existing 90 days to nurture their new-born.
In a smaller company, there may be resentment by employees if the lady colleague is on maternity and the organization decides not to hire a temporary to do. The employees have to take on extra responsibilities and any extra allowance is dependent on the financial capability and management policies.
Government subsidy for the first year of implementation of this act to help smaller organisations adjust to the new ruling.
Or allow flexibility for working mothers to start work earlier and take the balance of maternity leave entitled to utilize within the 12-months to bring the baby for vaccinations, post-natal check-ups and other related matters eg looking for a baby-sitter. This is to be agreed upon between employer and new mother.
Provision of affordable and safe licensed child care service near workplace. Government can provide initial subsidy to women who wants to set up a child care services within business districts to enable working mothers wanting to start work earlier after childbirth to have the convenience of dropping, feeding and picking up the baby.
This article is a personal perspective and does not reflect those of the FPAM. Writer is a working mother whose child is now an adult. The article is written from her perspective and what she experienced when her baby was born.