FAMILY-FRIENDLY POLICIES

Six months paid maternity leave good for mothers — WHO

Many employers view the break as an additional labour cost that sometimes forces them to hire temporary workers

In Summary

• Kenya’s law allows fully paid, three-month maternity leave and a two-week paternity break

• EABL and Microsoft give women six months and men two weeks of paid parental break

Breastfeeding mothers at Pumwani Hospital grounds during the celebrations of World Breastfeeding Week
BOOSTS BABY'S HEALTH: Breastfeeding mothers at Pumwani Hospital grounds during the celebrations of World Breastfeeding Week
Image: PATRICK VIDIJA

Mothers will enjoy a longer maternity leave should employers implement the recommendation by WHO to have six months paid leave.

As Breastfeeding Week comes to an end on Wednesday, the World Health Organization says it is high time employers and governments adopted family-friendly policies that support breastfeeding. 

Kenya’s law provides a fully paid, three-month maternity leave and a two-week paternity break for fathers. 

Many employers frown upon these breaks, viewing them as an additional labour cost that sometimes forces them to hire temporary workers. 

The theme of this year's World Breastfeeding Week is 'Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding.' 

“The evidence is clear that during early childhood, the optimal nutrition provided by breastfeeding, along with nurturing care and stimulation, can strengthen children’s brain development with impacts that endure over a lifetime,” WHO states.

The East African Breweries Limited and Microsoft have such policies. 

Female employees of beer maker EABL are entitled to six months paid maternity leave in line with the British parent company Diageo’s global policy. 

The policy, which offers one of the most generous packages for working parents, took effect from July 1.

The new policy gives both mothers and fathers prolonged periods of paid parental leave, regardless of how long they have worked at the company. 

 

“When a breastfeeding mother returns to work, her ability to continue breastfeeding depends on having access to breastfeeding breaks; a safe, private, and hygienic space for expressing and storing breast milk; and affordable childcare at or near her workplace.”

EABL already offers flexible working hours to lactating mothers and has also set up nursing rooms for them, just like Safaricom. 

Microsoft East Africa, on the other hand, has enhanced maternity and paternity leave.

Female staff get 20 weeks paid leave with new fathers getting six weeks. 

The HR policy, which also applies to the West and Central Africa Microsoft offices, includes 100 per cent of current salary while on leave.

WHO says time off work is equally important for fathers.

It states, “Paid paternity leave allows fathers to bond with their babies and promotes gender-equality, including through the sharing of child-rearing and household responsibilities.” 

The global health agency notes that returning to work too soon is a barrier to the early initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months and continued breastfeeding until they are two or older.

This, it says, can boost children’s immune systems, shield them from disease and provide protection from Non-Communicable Diseases later in life. 

Breastfeeding also protects maternal health since women who breastfeed reduce their risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

Edited by R.Wamochie