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Maternity leave is a constitutional right

Sacking pregnant employees is illegal. file photo | nmg
Sacking pregnant employees is illegal. file photo | nmg 

I have recently noted that when someone gets pregnant in the company that I have worked for the last two years, they don’t return to work after giving birth and many of my co-workers suspect the boss-owner sacks them quietly. I want to have a baby in a year as I am now 28 and feel I am getting old. Should I quit my job yet I don’t have another yet? Or should I just wait till I get another job?

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A few months ago, Parliament passed a Bill, which will compel employers with more than 30 employees to set aside a room for mothers to breastfeed their babies. The Bill further requires that employers give the mothers regular breaks to “feed future generations.”

If only because of this Bill, the 11th Parliament must be commended for a job well done.

A conversation with your present employer, or at least the HR department in the company could be a good starting point in determining your options in your workplace. You might ask one or two mothers or mother- to- be to join in the conversation with the company. I do not suggest that you confront your bosses, but rather that you draw their attention to these very positive developments in our country.

It might come as a surprise to them to learn that in the UK, for example, there is an organisation that promotes the employment of mothers! (workingmums.co.uk)

All the participating companies in this programme sign up to the top employers charter which requires them to categorically state that they fully embrace the right to be a working mum, by offering flexible working hours, compatible with the most noble of human activities, motherhood.

Some of the organisations you might already know include Barclays, DHL, and The BBC. Others with a presence in Kenya include Price waterhouse Coopers (PwC), Vodafone, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), and Unilever. I give you this list so that in the event you decide to move, you will know where to start.

To make this point in a practical way, you may wish to visit any of the websites in reference. You might be surprised to learn that your problem is being addressed globally in ways you may not have thought possible.

Unilever, for example, prides itself in having a strategy of “diversity in inclusion … regardless of gender, Nationality, race, creed, disability, style or sexuality.”

Significantly, it also has a female progression strategy that aims to achieve a truly gender balance of 50/50. There are many other examples of companies with similar strategies, and this example serves to illustrate the point.

Even as you contemplate your options, remember you have choices of potential employers who recognise the role played by mothers in nation building. Remember also that you have legal and constitutional rights that protect you from discrimination on the basis of your gender.

In this regard, it might be wise for you to seek a legal opinion on this matter as it might help you and other future mothers in your predicament.

Your question does, however, raise a number of other questions that demand our attention.

Why, for example does your company sack women after they become mothers? Is it perhaps because it does not like to pay for maternity leave? If that be the case, then it is possible that your company is unfamiliar with the Employment Act of 2007 which in Section 29 provides “that a female employee shall be entitled to maternity leave on full pay…”

All she has to do is give her employer seven days’ notice of her intention to exercise her right in this way.

There are some employers who are unfamiliar with this law and in ignorance treat maternity leave as a privilege. Let them know it is a legal right.

Many years ago, we came across a man who behaved very much like your employer. No woman could come to work the moment she discovered that they were pregnant. He worked in a paint production company and he argued that the lead in paint would damage the unborn baby. In time, the true reason came to be known when his third wife left him. The truth was that he had a very low sperm count and also suffered erectile dysfunction. The sight of a pregnant woman was enough to upset him when he remembered his domestic challenges.

So, does your employer have a personal problem or is he ignorant of the law?

Obviously there are many other possibilities but equally, you have many options that you could exercise in your most noble endeavour to become a mother.

Readers are advised to send their questions to [email protected]

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