Maternity leave (also called parental or family leave) can be a very confusing and sensitive subject with both mums to be and their employers. Chances are that you might not be familiar with all the statutory, legal and technical details of maternity leave.
There are other things to consider when thinking about taking (or not taking) an extended maternity leave. Some women may think that they’ll go back to their pre-birth routine and merrily return to work, only to find that when baby arrives the mothering instinct is much stronger than they expected and the desire to be home with their baby is far greater than their urge to climb the corporate ladder.
Employers recognize the physical, emotional and psychological demands of childbirth, and know that the period of leave is important for the wellbeing of both the parents and the child.
Maternal leave is the right of every woman who is qualified to go for it. However, the duration is dependent on the employers. Nigerian Labour law provides for three months. However, some companies allow up to 4 months maternity leave, Lagos State Government gives 6 months, federal Government employees enjoy four months.
Taking to your boss
If you are eligible for the Paid Parental Leave scheme, it is important that you discuss your leave intentions with your employer.
To ensure a smooth transition from work to receiving the Parental Leave Pay, it is vital that parents have clearly discussed their plans with their employer.
Here are some key things to remember when having this conversation with your employer:
Start the conversation early
It is a good idea to speak to your employer as soon as possible about your intention to take leave. You conversations may need to cover:
- What leave is available
- When to start your leave and when to return to work
- How you expect to manage your return to work
- What your post-leave role might involve
It is important to communicate your needs and expectations.
How is Maternity Leave Calculated?
The three months is provided for as six weeks before delivery and six week after delivery. However, organizations have made it flexible such that the employee can decide to go for the leave anytime from when the woman is heavy (Well, the later, the better for you).
Similarly, pay issue is also an aspect that is overlooked by many because it is never an issue, To this, the position of the law is: if the employee “had been continuously employed by her employer for a period of six months or more immediately prior to her absence[leave], she shall be paid not less than fifty percent of the wages she would have earned if she have not been absent…” . However, companies mostly pay the staff her full wage. This does not mean some deductions might not be made, if your company does not deduct any money from regular monthly pay, then be grateful. If deductions are made because you are on maternity leave, ensure the deductions are lawful. Some organizations only pay you your basic and housing allowance and deduct others. Find out what your organizations policy on maternity leave is, and if no policy is in place discuss with HR professional to know if any law has been violated, otherwise, you will be fighting for no just reason.
Keeping in touch with your workplace
Depending on the importance of your role, you can participate in workplace activities from time to time. This will help you remain relevant.
If you are self-employed, will you be able to keep an eye on your business without being regarded as having returned to work. Will you be able to oversee the business?
Returning to work
Before your leave ends, you should arrange to meet your employer to discuss your return to work arrangements, such as your role, hours, and flexible working arrangements.
Another vital aspect of maternity leave is the closing time for the employee after resumption form maternity leave. The labour law specifically provides for half an hour twice a day if the employee is nursing her baby, for that purpose. “if she is nursing her child, she should be allowed half an hour twice a day during her working hours for that purpose.” For the sake of convenience and best practice, HR practitioners merge the two half (since our environment did not provide facilities for nursing mothers to bring their new babies to work) and allow the employee to either close an hour earlier or resume an hour late, to enable her attend to her baby at home. Some organizations allow more that one hour. But the minimum provision is one hour.
On medical, it is not binding by law for employer to foot any medical bill incurred by a woman during or on account of her pregnancy, neither is there provision in law for any package for the new baby. However, best practice necessitates the inclusion of deliveries (CS sometimes inclusive) in HMO package of organizations. Some organizations go the extra mile of providing for the new babies too.
How often can I go on maternity leave? The labour law is silent on this, but organizations have different policies on this.