Sharjah royal calls for extended maternity leave for working mothers

Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi said improving maternity rights was an important step

Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi is the head of the advisory committee of the Sharjah Word Book Capital organisation. Courtesy NNCPR
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A member of Sharjah's royal family has called for mothers working in the UAE's private sector to be granted extended maternity leave.

Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, chairwoman of the Sharjah Friendly Baby Office, said "we cannot truly empower women" unless maternity rights are safeguarded.

She said such a move would represent a leap forward for "social justice' in the country.

“Extending maternity leave for the private sector is an essential step to achieving social justice and true women’s empowerment,” Sheikha Bodour said.

UAE Labour Law states that women are entitled to 45 days maternity leave with full pay while male employees are entitled to three days of paternity leave.

A new Dubai International Financial Centre Employment Law that came into effect in August this year allows for maternity leave of 65 working days, with the first half at full pay and the second at half pay, and five days of paternity leave.

The law applies to companies in the DIFC.

Sheikha Bodour said Sharjah had played an important role in supporting mothers juggling commitments in the workplace and at home.

"More than five years ago, under the directives of Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, our emirate became the first in the UAE to grant a 90-day maternity leave to all mothers working in Sharjah’s government departments," she said.

"It is because family systems are at the core of Sharjah’s vision of human-centric development."

Sheikha Bodour has often spoken up for the well-being of working mothers.

She acknowledged the private sector's commitment to providing a supportive work culture for mothers, but said these efforts needed to continue.

"Adopting the highest standards that safeguard the rights of working mothers will in turn support the nation's development process and women's empowerment efforts," Sheikha Bodour said.

The federal government has taken several steps to make gender balance a national priority.

The UAE Cabinet endorsed a bill last year ensuring equal pay for men and women and the country aims to be one of the world's top 25 countries in the area of gender equality through its Vision 2021 strategy.

The centenary of paid maternity leave is observed this month, celebrating the first gender equality global standard adopted at the International Labour Conference in November, 1919.

“We salute the women who made this possible with their strong advocacy for women’s rights,” Sheikha Bodour said.