Maternity Leave – Are women mistreated?
Maternity leave in Malta is 126 consecutive days (18 weeks). Out of these 126 days, 42 days (6 weeks) is the compulsory entitlement and is taken after birth. We do hear of some mistreatment stories which raise eyebrows and make us question whether certain approaches are fit for the 21st century.
In some cases women are being discriminated, emotionally abused and in some extreme cases even fired when they announce that they are pregnant. Not only is this unacceptable, it is also illegal.
We also hear about unfair recruitment practices where women are not employed simply because of their gender and susceptibility of using their maternity leave. This is seconded by the fact that women are asked about their family planning during interviews.
Not only do certain women find it problematic during pregnancy and their maternity leave, some struggle with their career opportunities, job status and security after they return to work.
Women and men start equally when kicking off their careers, however the percentage of females that make it to senior management positions such as CEO is meagre when compared to males. One of the main reasons for this is the fact that women typically are faced with more priorities at home.
The main obstacles facing women is work-life balance and also the hiring process. Some of the perceptions of hiring managers include that women will be out for a couple of months and cannot be replaced, and that women will not be able to work long hours and travel on work-related basis.
To solve this problem, companies, supported by the government should create a mandatory parental leave scheme for both men and women. This leave structure will minimise the burden on motherhood, as women can return to work earlier. This will alter the perception that caregiving is solely a female responsibility. Not only that, studies have shown that fathers who take at least two weeks of paternity leave or more are likely to continue being involved in child caring activities.
In this regard, companies should make it more enticing and easier for women to return to work. They need to be offered the flexibility to adapt to their new lifestyles such as teleworking, now that they have an offspring to take care of. Another option would be to include child care subsidies for parents, allowing their children to be in appropriate care whilst their parents are at work.