At its 268th Session (March 1997), the Governing Body of the
International Labour Organization decided to put on the agenda of the 87th
Session (1999) of the International Labour Conference the revision of the
Maternity Protection Convention (Revised), 1952 (No. 103), and Recommendation,
1952 (No. 95). This law and practice report has accordingly been drafted to
facilitate the discussion at the conference.
Maternity protection of women at work has been of core
importance to the International Labour Organization since its establishment in
1919. The Maternity Protection Convention, 1919 (No. 3), was among the first
instruments to be adopted. In 1952, this Convention was revised to take into
consideration developments in national law and practice, especially in the realm
of social security. The years since 1952 have similarly seen dramatic changes,
notably in the participation of women in the workforce, and an ever growing
commitment to eliminate discrimination in employment. However, the resulting
increased importance of maternity protection to women at work has not resulted
in a high number of ratifications of either Convention No. 3 or Convention No.
103. As of June 1997, 36 countries had ratified the Maternity Protection
Convention (Revised), 1952 (No. 103), and 17 other countries had ratified the
Maternity Protection Convention, 1919 (No. 3).
This report outlines and evaluates the key provisions of law in
ILO member States which provide maternity protection to women when their work
life coincides with their child-bearing years. It also incorporates examples of
practice which illustrate the ways in which the maternity protection afforded to
women may be more or less than that provided for by law.
Chapter 1 highlights the changes that have taken place
since 1952 with respect to women and employment in ILO member States and how
these changes necessitate a fresh examination of maternity protection in
employment. The labour market participation rates of women have increased
worldwide, strengthening their economic roles in society and the family. Women
in many countries have begun to see maternity protection laws as a means to
reduce discrimination in employment on the basis of their actual or potential
role as mothers.
Chapter 2 surveys the scope of national laws
providing for maternity protection, noting the principal inclusions and
exclusions in ILO member States. Differences in scope among various pieces of
national legislation regarding the provision of leave, cash benefits and medical
benefits may result in uneven coverage. While a picture emerges of a move
towards maternity protection for all employed women, large groups of women
workers continue to be excluded.
Chapter 3 examines the maternity leave provisions of ILO
member States. The duration of leave, its distribution before and after
childbirth, its compulsory or non-compulsory nature, and possible extensions of
leave due to illness or complications arising from pregnancy and childbirth are
described. Qualifying conditions which might prevent a woman from benefiting
from the standard leave allowance are also noted.
Chapter 4 addresses the fundamental employment rights -
protection from dismissal and the right to return to work - for pregnant and
nursing workers. Pregnancy today still leads to job loss and maternity leave may
result in termination of employment, rather than a mere suspension of work. The
chapter discusses the extent and limitations of the protection afforded by
legislative measures adopted in the member States.
Chapter 5 surveys the manner in which cash and
medical benefits are provided to women workers on maternity leave in ILO member
States. Recent trends in social security are highlighted, and differences in
scope regarding medical care and cash benefits are discussed. In addition, the
chapter reviews the role of employers in providing maternity benefits in light
of current practice.
Chapter 6 focuses on the occupational safety and health
dimensions of maternity protection. The major health considerations with regard
to the regulation of working time and the prohibition of dangerous or unhealthy
types of work during pregnancy and nursing are illustrated through the
approaches adopted in ILO member States to prevent exposure of working women to
work detrimental to the health of mother and child. Finally, the health and
economic aspects of breast-feeding are examined in the light of the widespread
provision for nursing breaks during the months following return to work.
Chapter 7 looks beyond the protection of
womens child-bearing role to the question of child-rearing, and examines
the provision for parental, paternity and adoption leave in ILO member States.
Such types of leave are often viewed as a means to offer equal opportunities for
men and women to combine parenthood with professional life.
The International Labour Conference will address the question of
the revision of the Maternity Protection (Revised) Convention, 1952 (No. 103),
and Recommendation, 1952 (No. 95), in accordance with the double-discussion
procedure set out in article 10 of the Standing Orders of the Governing Body and
article 39 of its own Standing Orders. The latter article requires that this
report and the accompanying questionnaire be communicated to governments not
less than 18 months before the opening of the 87th Session of the Conference in
1999. So that the Office may have time to examine replies to the questionnaire
and to prepare a second report, governments are requested to send their replies
so as to reach the Office in Geneva not later than 30 June 1998, as the second
report must be communicated to them not less than four months before the opening
of the session.
The Office wishes to draw Governments attention to article
39, paragraph 1, of the Standing Orders of the International Labour Conference,
which calls on them to consult the most representative organizations of
employers and workers before finalizing their replies. The results of this
consultation should be reflected in the governments replies. Governments
are requested to indicate in their replies which organizations have been so