A colleague of mine lost her job five years back after she left for maternity leave.
Without any clear reason, she was told to go back home and wait in case anything in her line of expertise comes up.
She was replaced just like that; very heart breaking as you could imagine for a single mother.
Ketra, (not her real names) had been one of the senior staff in the organization before her maternity leave.
Good at figures, she overturned the messed financial books of the organisation during the three years she worked for with them. She had postponed motherhood to accumulate her academic proficiency.
Therefore at the time she decided to have a child, she was 29 years old. She is now 35 years but she has not had another child for fear of losing her new job.
It took her two solid years to get stable employment after the termination.
She says she is trying to save enough money to establish a sustainable private source of income before she gets pregnant again.
She had wanted at least four children before making 40 years of age. But that looks impossible now.
As a human Resource Management student and a gender activist, Ketra’s situation got me wondering how much do women employees know about their constitutional rights and why do employers find it very easy to unremorsefully abuse these rights.
Anyway the answers to the second question could be obviously linked to the limited available jobs compared to the big number of skilled/trained job seekers. But for information sake, the employer has no right to terminate your employment contract just because you got pregnant and went for maternity leave.
The Uganda Employment Act, 2006, offers an entitlement of 60 working days (note: working days) and this is equivalent to eight and a half weeks of fully paid maternity leave. Don’t forget that whether it was child birth or miscarriage, you must have at least four weeks leave after, an equivalent of a month. Your responsibility as a female employee is to put a notice to your employer of your intention to take leave seven days earlier.
After your 60 working days maternity leave, the law grants you the right to return to the job you held immediately before you took maternity leave or to a reasonably suitable alternative job on terms and conditions not less favorable than those that would have applied had you not been off on your maternity leave.
Therefore ladies stop imagining that your employer is doing you a favor to return to your job after the official maternity leave days, and never settle for lesser terms than those you had before going for maternity leave.
And by the way, if by bad luck you get sick or the child gets sick after child birth or miscarriage, your employment rights remain intact for another eight weeks an equivalent of two months after child birth or miscarriage.
To be safe, write these leave notices with an attachment of the medical report. During this time of maternity leave, your full pay should be remitted as before.
It is so unfortunate that some organisations have adopted silent policies of never employing or promoting female employees to sensitive positions if they have just gotten married or still in the business of giving birth to more children. Some Human Resource officers shamelessly caution the female employees against getting pregnant in any near future.
Surprisingly some women with authority and power in these organizations initiate and support such inhuman policies, the men behind the abuse of maternity rights also have their wives, sisters employed somewhere else and they expect otherwise
You don’t need to be a lawyer to read and understand your rights, the Employment Act, 2006 is available for anyone to access…. I know the litigation process has its own challenges but never allow to be abused just because you’re afraid to fight back.
By Nankwanga Eunice Kasirye.
Eunice is the President, International Association of Women in Radio and Television(IAWRT) Uganda Chapter