The Federal Government has extended the maternity leave for Nigerian women from three to four months.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, disclosed this at the ongoing International Labour Conference (ILC), in Geneva, Switzerland, yesterday.
The minister also told delegates that employers of labour in the public and private sectors in the country have been barred from sacking women from work either due to their marital or maternity status.
Employers of labour (in Nigeria) are, by regulation, requested to provide workplace crèches for nursing mothers for ease at work place. In the public service, government recently increased the period for maternity leave from 12 to 16 weeks; to allow enough recuperation for both baby and mother, especially in the area of breast feeding.
“In addition, all disciplinary proceedings against any female staff, which might have been taken during the period of her maternity leave shall be put in abeyance till the expiration of the leave.
“Employers of labour are also barred from removal of women from work due to their marital or maternity status, illegal labour migration, contract staffing and labour casualisation which affects most women, are being reformed through policies and regulations at national, bilateral and multilateral levels.”
“The ratification, domestication and implementation of the Maternity Protection Convention No. 186 are conscious efforts to ensure that more women enjoy maternity protection in the country…”
Senator Ngige, however, informed that a lot needed to “be done in terms of putting in place appropriate legislation, policies and practices to deal with the gender gaps that inhibit greater participation of women in the labour force.”
He added that the most effective method of eliminating gender inequality from the workplace lies in vigorous opposition to employers’ discriminatory conducts, policies and harassment in all forms wherever and whenever they occur.
“Women who fall victim to these abuses are encouraged to oppose such through legal actions and reporting to Labour Inspectors. The infusion into Labour Inspection Guides Laws and Code of Practice, with severe sanctions and serious punitive measures are prescribed as future deterrents.
“In this respect, we will need the Technical Assistance of the ILO in the area of gender audits, considering the good news that the ILO has in her pool, over 80 certified Audit facilitators. We can adopt the Train the Trainers (TOT) approach in this regard.”
To address gender inequality and youth unemployment in Nigeria, Ngige told delegates that the federal government drew up and has been implementing an Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
“Government also initiated a School/ to Work (N’Power) programme, designed to empower young women and men with skills to facilitate their entry into the labour market. The programme has an initial two-year life span.”
Giving specific measures, the minister said: “In terms of specific measures to address inequality, our government recorded some successes in the following areas: the principle of equal pay for equal work for all, without discrimination on account of sex, is enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended. A Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE) is in place to promote girl-child school enrolment and also, put in place special packages for women in the region; for their economic empowerment.”