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close this bookMaternity Protection at Work: Revision of the Maternity Protection Convention (ILO, 1997, 122 p.)
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View the documentPreface
Open this folder and view contents1. Maternity protection at work
Open this folder and view contents2. Scope
Open this folder and view contents3. Maternity leave
Open this folder and view contents4. Employment protection
Open this folder and view contents5. Cash and medical benefits
Open this folder and view contents6. Health protection of mother and child
Open this folder and view contents7. Beyond childbirth: Parental, paternity and adoption leave
View the document8. Looking to the future
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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 women’s 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 consulted.