Pregnancy! That joyous time in your relationship when you decide you’re ready to add a little one to the family. The good news is that women no longer have to choose between babies or a career. The bad is that the lack of employment benefits for pregnant women still makes things difficult. Citation hails Croatia as the best country when it comes to maternity leave with 406 paid days of leave.
Even if that doesn’t sound like much to you, at least it’s in the triple digits unlike these countries...
1. United States
It’s not first because it offers the best benefits. It’s the best of the worst, and the leave being unpaid makes it one of the four worst countries. Maternity leave wasn’t made law until 1993, and the 84 days come with three criteria:
- The woman must have been employed at the company for at least 12 months
- She must have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours
- Companies with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from having to offer leave. This is more common than you might think, as 21 million Americans work alongside 20 people or fewer.
Tied with the US and Swaziland with 84 unpaid days, women in Lesotho don’t just work until the last minute and return as soon as possible, but often don’t even know their rights and can be exploited.
Better Work highlighted the case of factory worker Mamontseng Habahaba, who kept working – standing – until four days before she gave birth, and was back two months later. It was her colleagues who told her she was allowed 12 weeks’ leave, which she couldn’t afford to take, while her employers took advantage of her. Not knowing the maternity leave laws, she was only paid for two of the six weeks she was entitled to, and her employers let her work overtime which is prohibited for nursing mothers.
The third and final country with the best-of-the-worst offering of 84 days of unpaid leave is Swaziland. It’s unlikely that many of them take much of that time as women are often in charge of everything from children to household income, a status quo that is in danger when HIV affects 39.2 percent of pregnant women who pass it on to 17,000 children annually.
Coming down to 52 days, we find Nepal, the first on this list where women get paid leave. In a country where people are valued by their productivity and women work the hardest of all, there’s no sitting around for pregnant women like Januka Rasaeli who kept working both in the house and out in the fields at seven months and beyond.
5. Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
A woman giving birth in Libya who has worked for a minimum of six months is entitled to 50 days’ paid leave and a maternity grant from the fourth month until confinement. When they return to work, they get two half-hour breastfeeding breaks and, in workplaces with more than 50 workers, a nursery should be provided.
In Qatar, a woman who has worked for a company for a full year is entitled to 50 days’ paid leave – up to 15 days before the birth and at least 35 after – and an hour for nursing each day for the first year. That is unless she works for Qatar Airways where she could get fired just for announcing she’s pregnant. While no cabin crew on any airline can keep working throughout, other companies tend to let them continue for three months before giving them alternative work.
In Lebanon, women get 49 days’ paid maternity leave with no risk of losing their job, unless they were already more than five months pregnant when they were hired.
8. United Arab Emirates
Despite being a country with strong family values, the treatment of working women makes it difficult for them to keep their job when they get pregnant – or even get one in the first place with employers discouraging women who intend to get married or pregnant. If they do have a job, they are entitled to:
- 45 paid days’ leave – full pay if they’ve worked a year, and half pay if they’ve worked less.
- Two 30-minute breastfeeding breaks, which isn’t necessarily long enough for the mother to get home and/or feed the baby.
9. Papua New Guinea
The last on the list that offers unpaid maternity leave, Papua New Guinea offers mothers 42 days of leave. Mothers probably try to get out of hospital as quickly as possible, as those days don’t include confinement.
Tunisia comes in last place with 30 days of paid leave, and mothers may extend it by 15 days if there are any complications.
Do these laws sound fair for women who want a career and a child? Should employers give more maternity leave, or should they find other ways to work with the mothers to help them? Tell us what you think!