I have been meaning to write this blog for a while as it’s something very close to my heart. My intention is to spread the word and get you to act on it. If you’re considering what to do with your maternity leave.
You don’t have to be a Mum to act upon this advice; In fact, you can be a Dad, a Sister, a Brother or a friend, or anyone that has been affected by the short 45 days maternity leave which applies to the private sector in the UAE.
I’m going to keep this short and sweet as it’s very simple really – but, you do need to be brave and also need to do your research to get your numbers right and understand the financial impact it will have on the business sector you are working in.
Having worked hard for months to get my proposal in tip-top shape to present to the board of my company, I know the kind of questions you might be asked if you are going to try and act on your company maternity policy to make it better, and over and above the labour law requirements. My advice is dont’t wait for the change to come about. You could be waiting a long time …. make the change happen yourself!
How many times have your heard a friend or a colleague say “ the maternity package is terrible here,” but next time you hear it, say to them that the one thing they should try to do is tackle it!
Your maternity leave must really matter to you as you will have to work hard and influence the leaders and do your homework. It has to matter from the bottom of your heart and that is why it worked for me… because I wanted to make sure others benefited from a longer period of paid maternity leave over and above the minimum labour law requirement. Here’s my tips for how to increase your maternity leave.
Do your homework
Start by researching researching other companies in your industry to find out what other companies are doing with regards to their maternity leave policy. Contact the statistics office here in the UAE because maybe they have some stats you can use to present your case.
Look at the International Labour Organisation and see what they recommend as a minimum amount of leave and find out whether your company is applying that same amount. Think about what benefits does the business get from you being absent and how does it help the employees?
Do the maths
Work closely with your finance team from your company and try as much as you can to get information on how many females have been off work longer than the 45 days statutory and then work out the average of this, as you need some financial stats to understand how much more it would cost the business to give more paid time off for your maternity leave.
If the period of leave is not recorded as maternity leave, then you may even have to send out some questionnaires to employees and ask them how long they took off work for the same scenario. From these results you can then calculate some costs together with finance. But, do ensure you bring someone from finance into your team to help, as you do need some expert options to point out the costs to the business.
Engage with an HR expert who understands the overall impact and change to policy and what can, (and cannot) be done in terms of local labour laws. I really benefited from bringing in an HR expert to help me with the proposal that I presented.
Consider the benefits
Take time to calculate what the true benefits to all parties are in terms of changing the policy. For example, does the business gain anything from making changes, and if they dont, then be honest that it’s going to cost them something as it’s the right thing to do to point this out. I was astounded at the benefits beneath the improved policies and greater maternity leave in terms of retaining good employees.
Have options readily available for your Management Team
Try to have 3 options for available for your company and present phases which could include Paternity Leave and Adopted Leave. Aim high but have some other options available if you don’t see eye to eye such as 14 weeks paid (as recommended by the international labour organisation) but the second option might be 10 weeks full pay, with 4 weeks half pay.
Present the case as a team
Don’t go alone – Make sure that the board of directors or management team from your company know you have engaged with all the right people, being the experts such as HR and Finance.
Making the change
Understand what it will take if the approval is accepted, as HR and Finance have alot of work to do creating booking codes and a new policy and maybe need to write some revised communications out to the business. My advice would be to make sure you see these changes right the way through to the end.
Finally, once you have your ‘YES,’ (and I’m hoping that this is the case!), celebrate and get the news out to the business that you have successfully become a Change Agent and made a series of improvements that will impact many other females in your business!
Next step – Paternity Leave!
However, if things don’t happen instantly and you feel a negative response from your employer, then try another avenue and look at getting a better understanding of why the company does not think it’s important or why they feel they cannot take action at the time as there maybe something else happening and its not the right time, so maybe you can address it another few months down the line. The most importatnt thing however, is to at least ask! Good luck.
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