The Problem Statement
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Nigeria had the second-highest number of annual maternal deaths in the world in 2010 and contributed 14% of all maternal deaths globally.
Nigeria has a maternal mortality ratio of about 814 per 100,000 live births as of 2015.
The ratio of maternal deaths in Nigeria is alarming, a cause for serious and requires the timely intervention of all stakeholders.
Maternity leave is tailored to cushion the impact of maternal and child mortality ratio, increase vaccination rates and offer numerous benefits that support early childhood development.
The Policy Solution
Maternity Leave is the period in which a woman is legally allowed to be absent from work in the weeks before and after she gives birth.
In Nigeria, Maternity leave is a statutory right which offers women twelve (12) weeks leave with full pay under most circumstances.
Under the Nigerian Labour Act, this right is protected by Article 54 (1) (a) and this gives expectant mothers who are employed in both private and public companies the right to twelve weeks paid leave.
The right to Maternity leave under the Nigerian Labour Act is however subject to the following conditions;
- The woman is not be permitted to work within this period
- She must have been in the service of her employer for at least six (6) months prior to her maternity leave
- The employer has the discretion to decide whether to pay her full monthly salary for the period of her maternity leave or what percentage is appropriate but this cannot be less than 50% of her monthly salary.
- The employer is also not liable to pay her medical expenses
The primary basis for maternity leave is to mitigate the complications arising from pregnancy and childbirth.
In Lagos State, expectant fathers in the civil service are also entitled to Paternity leave (i.e. the right for an expectant father to take up to two weeks leave with pay in the period following the birth of his child) but the Nigerian Law on Maternity leave does not recognize the growing practice of Paternity leave and makes no provision for such.
In 2018 the Nigerian Labour Congress and other organizations called on the Federal and State governments to increase Maternity leave from three (3) to six (6) months to enable working nursing mother’s breastfeed infants exclusively for six (6) months on the grounds that exclusive breastfeeding is very important for infant wellbeing and development.
However, Kaduna, Lagos and Enugu states have passed laws extending the maternity leave of public officers to six months.
NIGAC Constructive Position
The issue is that the six months or twelve weeks maternity leave applies only to expectant mothers in public service while the larger percentage of women employed by private organizations are sometimes offered four weeks maternity leave.
The call for the various state governments to extend the maternity leave for women in public service will have very minimal impact on our maternal death’s ratio except;
- Women in the employment of private companies are taken into consideration
- Access to maternal healthcare in the various communities and villages improves
- Enlightenment campaigns are done to educate women in rural areas on the dangers of traditional birth methods.
- Traditional midwives are trained in the rudiments of maternal care, taught to identify complicated cases which must be referred to a specialist hospital, certified and strictly regulated by the government
- Impose sanctions or have zero-tolerance where maternal deaths occur as a result of medical negligence.
- Maintain a database or create a registry for maternal and early childhood development, as this will help track our progress in combating maternal related deaths and also give an insight into regions that are disadvantaged in this regard.
Osarobo A. Enwong-Iwok is a Legal practitioner, Compliance Officer licensed by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Nigeria, with eight years’ work history in legal practice, company secretarial services and Regulatory Compliance; presently seeking career advancement in commercial Law at the University of London.