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Benefits of extended maternity leave for employers and employees

Picture of Faith Chukwuka

Faith Chukwuka

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The Employment of Women (Maternity Leave) Act, states female employees in Barbados; are entitled to Maternity Leave and the protection of employment during the period. Section 4 (1) of the Act states that the leave should be no less than twelve weeks, with no more than six weeks taken before the delivery and no less than six weeks after.

While there is little research available for the Barbadian population, research carried out throughout the world can still guide the island on best practice as working mothers here are not alien to those from other countries.

The Nordic countries offer the best paid parental leave packages. However, the USA still does not have a Federal Parental leave package. Instead, individual states must decide if parents receive paid leave. Our neighbours St. Lucia and Trinidad offer 14 paid weeks; while St. Vincent and the Grenadines offer 13 paid weeks.

Pregnancy not only affects a woman’s body and mind but also on every aspect of her life. Therefore, adequate time should be available to see her return to optimal productivity before returning to the workforce.

We boast of being one of the most developed and advanced Caribbean islands; therefore, our policies should reflect this. Here are some of the ways that extended Maternity Leave benefits employers and employees.

Employers benefit by retaining employees

Paid leave considerably increases, the probability of employees returning to work instead of resigning from the workforce or searching for alternative employment.
Retaining an employee with specialized knowledge and skills unique to the company, removes time and cost it takes to rehire or retrain employees is a benefit to the employer. Also, employees who have received extended maternity leave usually rate high in employee satisfaction and productivity. It costs a company to replace employees, and by having unhappy employees.

It promotes economic growth

When employees remain employed post-pregnancy and are satisfied with their jobs, they perform better. Receiving extended leave encouraged employees to participate more and has increased employment ratios. Between increased productivity and a higher rate of females employed, the combination fosters economic growth.

It benefits infant health and development

Recent findings indicate that extended maternity leave has benefits to child development. (“Do Longer Maternity Leaves Affect Maternal Health?”) states, “longer maternity leaves may benefit infant health and development – children whose mothers take longer leaves have been found to have lower mortality rates and higher test scores.” A thriving child is less likely to pose many challenges for the mother. Once there are no underlying mental health challenges, her satisfaction with life would increase and positively impact her productivity.  

Helps to maintain good physical and mental health for mothers

Having adequate time for your body to recover post-delivery is a benefit for physical health. Add this with time to adjust to nursing, bond with family and transition to formula. Extended maternity leave provides time to manage the challenges that come with having a new baby. It removes the pressure to focus on work while juggling a new baby, and provides the opportunity, to settle into an efficient routine. (Chatterji, and Markowitz) found “that mothers who return to work later are reporting fewer symptoms of depression, such as “my sleep was restless” or “I could not get going,” or are experiencing such symptoms with less frequency or both.”

Childcare cost should be taken into consideration, as it is higher the younger the infant. Due to the lack of adequate support, mothers must pay high prices for their babies to attend nursery. With a workforce made up of 61.4 per cent women, their wellbeing should be paramount. 

Our view is healthy, productive workers will drive the economy, which was affected by the Covid-19 Pandemic and several other factors over the past few years. But; what are your thoughts? Given the benefits outlined, should Barbados extend their policy?

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