6 months maternity leave policy for 2017 – Lawrence

… Ministry will lead way with corporate day care service

Social Protection Minister Volda Lawrence on Wednesday stated that her Ministry is in support of a social policy for six months maternity leave to be granted to mothers, and so it has been placed on the 2017 Ministry’s agenda.

Social Protection Minister Volda Lawrence
Social Protection Minister Volda Lawrence

Currently, the mandate for three months of maternity leave flies in the face of the World Health Organisation’s calls for mothers to breastfeed their babies for six months. The Public Health Ministry and its Minister, Dr George Norton, has bemoaned mothers only being able to breastfeed for three months.
Norton stated that if the health sector would recommend six months exclusive breastfeeding then there should be discussions about mothers being granted six months leave. He acknowledged that this might burden employers but in the long-run, it will be worth it.
Lawrence indicated that in the Ministry’s 2017 programme, they will push to ensure that wherever there are Ministries and Government agencies, there should be a place for mothers to go and breastfeed their babies.
“… we will push to ensure that where there are entities, Ministries, agencies and any place where mothers go to for services, that they have a place set aside so that mothers can breastfeed their babies. And we are going to start with the Ministry of Social Protection as soon as we have our new building,” she announced.
Minister Lawrence stated that day care services in corporate companies is another programme that they are looking to incorporate into the system. “It is something that we have to sell especially to the corporate society in Guyana and it is something other persons will get into,” she noted.
Citing that maternal and child health care is an aspect of the health sector, Minister Norton said he will be moving sometime soon to take this issue to Cabinet. “I hope that six months of maternity leave will become a law before my tenure as Minister is up,” he said.
Chile is the only country in the Americas that has established the gold standard for breastfeeding by legally requiring six months of paid maternity leave for working mothers, the period of time recommended by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) for babies to be exclusively breastfed.
In 2015, PAHO had called for more employers to support breastfeeding mothers in the Caribbean and the Americas. The Organisation stated that the employers were more than likely to reap the benefits for their businesses and their countries’ economies.
PAHO had stressed the need to support women in balancing work and family, especially where breastfeeding their babies were concerned. Empirically researched public health recommendations have articulated the health benefits from breastfeeding, which ranged from reduced infections and improved IQ (intelligence quotient), in babies, to lowering the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in mothers.
The Health Organisation stated that promoting breastfeeding in the workplace increases benefits for employers, including employee loyalty to companies as a result of gratitude and satisfaction, and reduced absenteeism because breastfeeding employees’ babies get sick less often and less severely.
Therefore, it recommended that employers employ policies, specifically paid maternity leave, paid breaks for breastfeeding, a dedicated room for breastfeeding in the workplace that is private and hygienic, and flexible or reduced working hours for breastfeeding mothers.
PAHO/WHO’s Senior Advisor in Food and Nutrition, Dr Chessa Lutter stated that while many countries have made progress in setting up legislations and policies that support working mothers to breastfeed, there is a lot more to be done to ensure implementation and enforcement.