Auxilia Katongomara, Chronicle Reporter
WOMEN are now entitled to maternity leave within their first year of employment, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister, Dr Sekai Nzenza has said.
She said Government policy allows women to get pregnant as soon as they start work and are allowed to go on maternity leave.
Responding to questions in the Senate on Thursday on Government policy with regard to maternity leave, Dr Nzenza said the policy of going on maternity leave after 24 months had been outlawed.
“The policy on maternity leave is that it does not really matter when a woman starts work. As soon as she starts work and she gets pregnant, she is allowed to take maternity leave. We have also put into place that she has hours to go home and breast feed as opposed to the last policy which only allowed a woman to take maternity leave when she has been on the job for 12 months. That has changed,” she said.
MDC Alliance Senator Siphiwe Ncube asked the Minister if she was aware that there are some people who are chased out of work because of going for maternity and Dr Nzenza professed ignorance on the matter.
Activists have since urged Government to amend the law by aligning the Labour Act with the Ministry of Health and Child Care’s recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for six months.
The labour laws have three months stipulated for maternity leave compared to the six months of exclusive breastfeeding recommended by the Ministry of Health.
The country’s Constitution and the Labour Act also give different periods for maternity leave.
Section 65 (7) of the Constitution states that: —“Women employees have a right to fully paid maternity leave for a period of at least three months” while section 18 (1) of the Labour Act says: — “Unless more favourable conditions have otherwise been provided for in any employment contract or in any enactment, maternity leave shall be granted in terms of this section for a period of 98 days on full pay to a female employee who has served for at least one year.”