The study Maternity and paternity at work: Law and practice across the world by the International Labour Organization (ILO) reviews national law and practice on both maternity and paternity at work in 185 countries and territories including leave, benefits, employment protection, health protection, breastfeeding arrangements at work and childcare.
The report, which provides a rich international comparative analysis of law and practice relating to maternity protection at work in 185 countries and territories, shows that most countries have adopted maternity protection provisions since 1919, when the ILO adopted the first Maternity Protection Convention. However, at least 830 million female workers still don’t have adequate protection.
The ILO points out that 66 countries out of 185 countries and territories have committed to at least one of three maternity protection Conventions adopted in 1919, 1952 and in 2000.
Regarding health and safety, 111 out of 160 countries have laws on dangerous or unhealthy work affecting pregnant or nursing women and 78 set out explicit prohibitions against such work.
In terms of maternity leave, no country has cut its length since 1994 and there has been a gradual shift towards leave periods that meet or exceed the 14-week ILO standard.
Only three of 185 countries and territories provide no statutory cash benefits during maternity leave and more than 100 countries now finance benefits through social security, reducing employers’ contribution.
When it comes to discrimination protection, all but 20 of 165 countries had explicit prohibitions against discrimination during pregnancy and leave.
Despite overall strides, maternity discrimination persists in all countries, the report said. Almost 80 per cent of women concerned by this discrimination work in Africa and Asia where some groups of workers are excluded from protection in law and in practice. This is often the case for self-employed, migrant, domestic, agricultural, casual or temporary workers, and indigenous and tribal peoples.
These are also the regions where employer liability schemes are more prevalent, informal work is predominant and maternal and child mortality ratios are still very high.
In addition to maternity protection legislation, many countries also have measures to support working fathers.
The report urges governments to adopt and implement inclusive laws and policies for effective protection, noting that assessing gaps in current frameworks is a first step.