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New labour law blow to women?

BAHRAINI women could be seen as "undesirable" to employers with implementation of the new labour law.

They say companies could opt out of hiring women because of the extended 60-day maternity leave and other benefits.

They were speaking at a seminar yesterday held at the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) headquarters in Sanabis.

The event was organised by the BCCI Businesswoman's Committee and attended by Labour Minister Jameel Humaidan and several legal representatives from both the ministry and the chamber.

The new law entitles employees to a 30-day annual holiday, regardless of whether they worked a five or six-day week. In addition, women will get 60-days paid maternity leave with the option of taking an additional 15-days unpaid.

They can also take up to six months unpaid maternity leave as long as they have a child under the age of six.

Holidays

Also, when women return to work after giving birth, they are entitled to two-hours a day for nursing for the first six months and one-hour a day for the following six months.

Participants also discussed effects of the law on the education sector, with some demanding an amendment be made for the academic sector.

"The most controversial issue (in the new law) is regarding women and the advantages that we have given to women. People are concerned that these advantages will backfire and would force employers not to employ women," said BCCI board member and head of the businesswoman's committee Afnan Al Zayani.

"People who raised this point are mostly from the education sector because the academic year is 180 days. If a woman is going to take 60 days paid leave and has the option of taking six-months off unpaid, then they cannot come up with a replacement as they cannot just pick any teacher to fill the position - especially in the private sector where the teachers are not Bahraini."

Ms Al Zayani said a meeting will be held between the chamber and the ministry next week, which will take into account the outcome and views voiced in yesterday's event.

Participants also discussed fears the law might push employers to increase working days from five to six, but officials were adamant the decision should be made by companies or businesses.

They also argued that employers could include weekends in the annual leave because the new law does not specify if it consists of working or calendar days, while the Haj leave specifically mentions 14 working days.

However, ministry's labour affairs assistant under-secretary Dr Mohammed Ali Alansari said the annual holiday would not include weekends, but employers had the option to opt for increased working days.

"The benefits workers get will not necessarily decrease the productivity in the company, so employers shouldn't jump to that conclusion," he explained.

"Our hope is that the extra leave will act as a positive push, which will make workers more productive and not less. If companies calculate the effects it will be very minimal.

"I think this law reflects the views of all parties; the BCCI, workers and the government."

ahmed@gdn.com.bh



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