Maternity leave granted for new working mothers in the UAE is 45 days for private-sector workers or 60 days for public-sector workers. A colleague who was having a baby saved up her annual leave from the time she found out she was pregnant, so she would be able to take all the days off after her baby arrived. Other women I know have convinced their physicians to give them sick leave so they're able to stay longer at home to care for their child.
The UAE, which prides itself on encouraging women to work, and supporting them as mothers and wives, ranks at number 119 out of 145 countries on the gender-equality scale, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2015 global report.
Canada, which ranks 30th on the list, offers 105 working days, while Korea (115th) and Japan (101st), offer women 90 and 98 days respectively.
Having Emirati women being both mothers and productive members of the society is something the Government has supported for many years. We need Emirati women to be members of the workforce, and more of them to be competent leaders and hold managerial positions. Emirati men can’t be expected to be the only part of the Emirati working community. But it must be remembered that women are also expected to have children, and when it comes to this, they need time to fully recover and bond with their children before going back to work.
For me, two months is not long enough – it’s the reason why some women choose to quit their jobs immediately after having a baby. And then there are the problems associated with searching for a new job. Employers might be reluctant to hire a person who resigned from their previous job to stay at home with their child – they can’t be sure if they will do it again.
I remember having this conversation with some married friends recently, and asking them what they plan on doing when they start a family. The response was that they would most likely end up staying at home, because they don’t expect their husbands to support their ambition to pursue a career, and don’t feel their employer would be understanding.
Some steps have been taken to help working mothers. A few years ago, a law was passed that asks Government entities to have a nursery, which is welcome, because for most mothers, having their children close makes it a lot easier to return to work.
Being a mother is one of the hardest jobs a woman can have, and I’m sure many would agree that being a working mother is even tougher. We need to give working mothers the support they need to ensure that they have recovered from the experience of giving birth and are ready to go back to work.
Fawzia Abdul Rahman works for the Abu Dhabi Government.
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