What you need to know:
- While many employees in private and government institutions get maternity benefits from their employers, a huge percentage of women especially in the informal sector do not enjoy these benefits as required by the constitution.
Carrying a pregnancy to term is not easy for many mothers. Morning sickness, cravings, pains, frequent visits to the doctor, and anxiety can leave an expectant mother exhausted physically and mentally.
This makes maternity leave an important time for the mother to recover from childbirth strain and bond with the baby.
What are the benefits of maternity leave?
Maternity leave is an opportunity for a mother to bond with her baby or babies, and build the confidence to take care of them.
Many women also use this period to get their homes in order and take care of themselves, which reduces the risk of health issues like postpartum depression.
Maternity benefits could also include additional vacation days and giving new mothers new clothes to wear when returning to work after having a baby.
Challenges for working mothers
Some mothers reported feeling pressured to return to work soon after giving birth because employers only gave them a few months of unpaid maternity leave.
Other employers only give a maximum of four weeks for maternity leave, while others have no paid leave policy at all.
Casually employed women do not have maternity benefits, some end up losing their jobs when they fall pregnant.
Very few workplaces have suitable policies to enable female employees to work and breastfeed successfully after maternity leave.
What does the law say?
According to section 29 of the Constitution of Kenya, female workers are entitled to fully paid three months’ maternity leave. Additionally, maternity leave does not take away the employee’s entitlement to annual leave under section 28.
Section 5(3) (a) of the constitution protects female employees from harassment and discrimination by the employee on the basis of being pregnant.
The law also entitles a male employee to a two weeks’ paternity leave with full pay.
While many employees in private and government institutions get maternity benefits from their employers, a huge percentage of women especially in the informal sector do not enjoy these benefits as required by the constitution.
Lastly, as an employee, get information about your rights to maternity leave and your employer's policies regarding the same.