Feature: The Future of Work Capsules

A woman on maternity leave

With a proposal of increase for Ghana’s maternity leave duration, we consider sources of funds for the increase duration(2)

Maternity leave duration offers a direct bearing to the family health of any family unit, the organization and subsequently the nation.

The protection for maternity at work currently faces some difficulties, which needs to be addressed.

Whereas over the last several years obvious signs of progress have been made in the provision of longer rest periods to permit breastfeeding mothers practice exclusive breastfeeding; a recommendation put forward by the International Labour organization (ILO) to help globally curb the challenge of non-adherence. Conversely, Ghana appears to be at the same position on the progress ladder for a long time now.

It’s welcome news that the New Democratic Congress, a political party in the country is considering reviewing the present maternity leave duration upwards when granted the nod to lead the country come December 2020 when Ghana goes to the polls this election year.

Many countries globally by law provide paid maternity leave and health benefits according to the ILO’s maternity protection at work document.

The reason is that; most working women when they become pregnant are usually faced with the challenge of losing their jobs which affects their income.

These women face health risks as their suspend earnings makes it difficult for them to properly take good care of themselves.

It is common knowledge that women’s job income is very important in helping the family survive.

This stance has been endorsed by the ILO. According to the ILO’s report, 30% of all main household incomes where provided by women globally. 59% working women in Europe and 55% in America respectively were found to supplying half or more of their family’s household income.

For Asia, India alone was reported to have an estimated 60 million people live in households that were maintained by only women without the assistance of men in those household.

The possibility of mothers risking the health of their babies during, before and after pregnancy and during the breastfeeding periods; poses a serious threat to both baby and mother, a situation that cannot be ruled out.

Women have the right to continue to breastfeed their babies when they resume work and because access to hygienic and appropriate facilities (breastfeeding rooms) for nursing at work is very essential and needed though not mostly available and provided tends to affect the health and wellbeing of mothers and their newborn babies.

Most companies in Ghana do not have such facilities as the breastfeeding rooms to implement the breastfeeding break, an issue of concern that needs policy directive.

Should Ghana opt for an increase in maternity leave duration, there are ways the increase duration can be funded.

The increase in maternity leave duration would come at a cost. The following systems are national practices across the globe. A critical look at the systems addresses Ghana’s challenge of a funding gap.

According to the International Labour Organization on maternity protection convention, convention No. 183, article 6 clause 8 has it that, “in order to protect the situation of women in the labour market, benefits in respect of the leave referred to in articles 4 and 5 shall be provided through compulsory social insurance or public funds, or in a manner determined by national law and practice.

An employer shall not be individually liable for the direct cost of any such monetary benefit to a woman employed by him or her …”

There are several sources of funding. Aside Ghana, are there other countries offering more increased maternity leave duration across the globe?

According to the International Labour Organization, several countries offer increased maternity leave durations of up to a year across the world.

With a proposal of increase for Ghana, the following can be considered as sources of funds; social security being social insurance, shared contributions, tripartite funding, individual employer liability scheme and non-contributory schemes.

Social Security: The access to social security is a fundamental human right and a public responsibility.

To mitigate discrimination in the labour market, the social security systems help, as this is usually financed from contributions and or taxes or in most cases use of both taxes and contributions. In countries where this practice is common, it is usually;

  • employer-related social insurance which is a contributory scheme or
  • employer liability system
  • Contribution of both methods, which is mixed.

Let’s look at the Social Insurance: To protect and prevent employers from bearing the cost of direct maternity benefits, social insurance schemes are used. In instances of promoting non-discrimination at work, this system has helped.

This is an employment-related system where eligibility for pensions and other payments made intermittently are established on the length of employment or in some cases self-employment.

But in the case of maternity cash benefits, the period of short-term payment is related to levels of earnings.

This type of scheme is contributory in nature and exclusively financed from earnings percentages of contributions from employers, employees and sometimes with a subsidy from the government.

How about Shared Contributions: This scheme operates with joint funding of maternity benefits between employers and employees.

This is the most common system adopted by most countries in both the developing and developed world.

These countries practice the shared contributions system; Algeria, Cyprus, Greece, France, Lithuania, Morocco, Pakistan and Tunisia just to mention but a few.

What of the Tripartite FundingThe contributions for this scheme are made by the employer, the employee, and the government.

Mention could be made of Honduras and Mexico practicing this system.

Available also is the Individual Employer LiabilityThis scheme is being practiced by Malaysia.

Lewis et al, in 2014 found out that, the implication of this system is that, most women of childbearing age were not being hired at all. A situation, we must not create.

The Employer Sole Contributions: This system is very rare but countries such as Jordon and Peru practice this.

With the implementation of this scheme, the employer solely contributes to the scheme for the cash benefits of the leave duration.

With the Non –Contributory (social assistance) Scheme: With the operation of this scheme, state revenue is used or taxes are ear-marked and administered by the government alone.

It offers benefits in two-fold. In the first place, it serves as a sole source of funding of employment-related maternity cash benefits.

It is practiced by countries such as Australia, Georgia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Secondly, the non-contributory scheme also helps to complement the social insurance earnings. We can learn from Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Denmark.

Let’s look at the statistics of countries usage of these available sources of funds. Statistically, of the 185 countries surveyed by the International Labour Organization in 2014;

*         58% representing 107 countries were found to providing national social security schemes.

*         25% representing 47 countries were found to providing benefits that are solely paid by the employer

*         16% representing 29 countries were found to providing employer and social security systems where the cost of the cash benefits of maternity leave is shared accordingly.

*         1% representing two (2) countries does not pay benefits.

From the developed economies survey; Out of the above statistics, developed economies providing social security systems contributed to 88% as no country relied solely on employer’s benefits. Malta for instance covers, 14 weeks of employer cover with the additional 4 weeks being covered by insurance.

Denmark, Germany, and the UK rely rather on the mixed system of employer liability and social security. Sadly, the US is the only developed economy not paying benefits.

With Eastern Europe and Central Asia Countries: These countries also usually rely solely on social security systems. But out of the 19 countries that were assessed for the 2014 survey, the provision of payment was on social security systems.

21 Latin American and Caribbean countries including Argentina, Mexico, Peru and Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela do rely on either the social security system representing 62% , whereas the 29% representing countries such as Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Panama uses the mixed system with the remaining 9% relying fully on employer liability systems {Haiti, Jamaica and Puerto Rico(USA)}.

For Africa, Asia, and the Middle East; In Africa, Asia and in the Middle East, employer liability is rather seen to be very common. Whiles 4% of African countries representing 21 countries such as Cameroon, South Africa and the United Republic of Tanzania use social security systems, 38% being 20 countries such as Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda depend on employer liability. Those using the mixed system accounted for 21% (Benin, Congo, and Egypt).

For Asia, 113 countries representing 50% in Asia use the employer liability system. The report mentions Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

The countries using the social security systems in Asia accounted for 31% including, China, India, Islamic Republic of Iran, Mongolia, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Viet Nam.

The mixed system is practiced by countries such as the Republic of Korea and Thailand representing 17 %. Papua New Guinea as the USA pays no benefit.

In the Middle East, reliance on a social security system is rather the lowest in all the regions. 92% uses employer liability with Jordon being the only country providing benefits with the use of social security systems. Lebanon, on the other hand, uses the mixed system and employer liability.

Some countries had no requisite policy document indicating the extent of coverage and system in use; it is in this regard that a policy change is necessary and needed for Ghana’s maternity policy.

Workplace initiates alone are not sufficient as we require public policies to help address the issues of available, affordable and quality systems and structures. It is worth commending the efforts of most human resource professionals as many organizations for now are making efforts to offer more increase maternity leave duration above the current statutory duration of 12 weeks per the Ghana Labour Law.

Ghana’s maternity leave is short and needs an increase. The implementation of the increase maternity leave duration will come with some form of challenge though the benefit it offers if implemented is enormous.

Look no further for support in navigating your way through in management, policy design, and review as well as with your implementation strategies. FoReal HR Services is available to offer professional business support in this regards. Write to us today [email protected] Call or WhatsApp: +233(0)262213313. We are available virtually as well.

Baptista is a human resource professional with a broad generalist background. Building a team of efficient & effective workforce is her business. Affecting lives is her calling!  She is an HR Generalist, strategic planner, innovative, professional connector and a motivator. You can reach her via e-mail on [email protected]   You can follow this conversation on our social media pages Facebook / LinkedIn/ Twitter / Instagram: FoReal HR Services.   Call or WhatsApp: +233(0)262213313.  Follow the hashtag #theFutureofWorkCapsules #FoWC

By Baptista Sarah Gebu (Mrs.)

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