This leave differs from one country to the other. According to reports, in the UK, all female employees are entitled to 52 weeks of maternity or adoption leave, 39 weeks of which is paid, with the first six weeks paid at 90 per cent of full pay and the remainder at a fixed rate. A spouse or partner of the woman may request a two week paid (at a fixed rate) paternity leave. Both the mother and her partner can additionally request non-paid parental leave, which can be up to four weeks annually, with a current limit of 13 weeks. In Sweden all working parents are entitled to 16 months paid leave per child, the cost being shared between employer and the state.
The maternal-leave only system in Bulgaria is even more generous, providing mothers with 45 days 100 per cent paid sick leave, prior to the due date, 2 years paid leave, and 1 additional year of unpaid leave. The employer is obliged to restore the mother to the same position upon return to work. In addition, pregnant women and single mothers cannot be fired.
At the just-concluded International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva, Mrs. Theresa Braimoh, a member of the government delegation said, that women in the federal public service are now entitled to 16 weeks maternity leave with full pay. Reports by Fumilayo Kolafe said, “she confirmed this while speaking during a session on Gender Equality at the 98th ILC.” Many Nigerians consider it an excellent idea while others think it is too much.
A respondent, Mr. Isah Momoh, an engineer with the Ministry of Works, said, “I think it’s a fantastic idea that should be implemented in the private sector as well. All mothers need to spend as much time as permissible with their babies. I wouldn’t mind having paternity leave even for one month. Nigerian men need to learn to bond with their children from day one and I think this will be a sure way to start.”
In his article, ‘An argument for parental leave,’ Adeola Aderounmu, a Swedish resident narrated that he got 14 days off work after his wife had a baby to be home with the two of them.
“During my ongoing leave, I once received a Nigerian woman as a visitor to my home and she actually laughed at me. She asked if I would have accepted this status in Nigeria: that which allows me to stay at home while my wife is at work. Considering the ego of the Nigerian man and our cultural attributes (or is it attitudes?), she thought it would have been impossible for me to accept the situation. Maybe she is right – I have seen Nigerian men here in Sweden who gave all the parental leave days to their wives. To them perhaps, ego and cultural attitudes must be sustained everywhere.”
In accordance with this Mrs. Florence Ede, a mother and banker said. “The benefits of time spent with a baby in those early months cannot be overestimated. It will give more women the opportunity to go baby-friendly for longer periods thereby enriching the health of their babies.”
For employer Ahmed Bakori, “A lot of jobs will suffer. Four months is too long for anybody to stay away from work. I understand the need for this kind of leave; but what happens to the productivity and intellect of the staff? Nigerians usually especially in the public service do not want to think anything of their jobs once they are out of the four walls of their offices. What intellectual capacity would such a mind be upon returning to work after four months? I am sorry to say this, but it’s even worse with the women whom this directly affects.”
Mrs. Zara Aliyu has a completely different perception. “I don’t believe in this maternity leave business. I don’t give more than six weeks in my company. If you think it is too short, then quit the job. You can’t serve two masters at the same time. I encourage my staff to stay at home and finish having babies before they take on a career. It is what I did and I didn’t lose anything. Is it in this era of global crisis you want to pay four month salary when no work is being done? Maternity leave should be completely scrapped. Mothers should stay at home until their babies are one or two years old before taking full-time jobs.”
Hauwa’u Sani, lawyer and mother has a different angle to it. “Having a four-month maternity leave is a brilliant idea” she said. “But I think it would be better if establishments made crèches available in their premises or somewhere close by, where mothers could go to at lunch time to breastfeed and spend some time with their babies. If baby-friendly is so highly recommended and they want mothers to put it to practice, we all have to start thinking in this direction. There may be distractions but in my opinion, it will serve all parties best.”
In Aderounmu’s words, “Government policies are overriding in many societies regarding family issues and the care of babies especially. Nigeria cannot afford to be left out for any reason at all. It is high time we created the enabling environment that will allow our children to grow up under the care of both mothers and fathers. The policies that suit our national situation, which would encourage family planning and discourage absent parents will be most useful.”
After all said and done, all these emphasize the fact that parents and their baby need to spend quality time together no matter what the circumstances are. 16 weeks of maternity leave will do so much more good than harm, if any at all.