While there are many benefits to working in the UAE (eternal sunshine, tax-free lifestyle), one thing that has let the region down is its maternity law.
Expectant mums have long had to struggle with the meagre 45 days paid maternity leave. Just to put this in perspective, in Norway new mums can get 35 weeks of full-pay leave, in Saudi Arabia it’s 10 weeks – the UAE is trailing behind.
However, there seems to be a glimmer of hope for mums-to-be as the UAE government has announced it is reviewing its maternity law.
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Under the direction of HH Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union, Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation and President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and also HH Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, President of the UAE Gender Balance Council, President of Dubai Women Establishment, the aim is to provide women with a supportive work environment.
The Sheikhas are determined for the UAE to be in line with best international practices, with a heavy focus on the Gender Balance Index.
Back in May the Sheikha Manal revealed that “the index is in line with UAE Vision 2021’s objective of becoming one of world’s top 25 countries for gender inequality”.
This would entail enhancing the role of women across all sectors of society and ensure their effective participation in the country’s economic development.
One major part of this balance is to establish a committee to review the Maternity Law and create a better work environment for women.
“We are working to activate the Gender Balance Index across various sectors to enhance the role of women, and promote gender equality through encouraging female participation,” said Sheikha Manal. “In the next phase, the UAE Gender Balance Council will take the necessary steps to ensure that men and women have equal opportunities to participate in the sustainable development of the UAE and to achieve the country’s vision in terms of gender balance on a local, regional and global level.”
Already showing some hope, MENA Properties announced it is extending its paid maternity leave for employees to 60 days in total – and offering flexible hours, all in the name of empowering women.
If Sheikha Manal and Sheikha Fatima can get their way this extension of leave won’t become a shocking surprise but more of a norm in our society. And in doing so we are certain the region will jump up on the Gender Balance Index, from its current spot at 41 to the top 25.