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Maternity Protection

Updated by Analía Calero , Victoria Giroud-Castiella , Artiom Sici on 28.04.2016

Maternity protection is a fundamental human right and an indispensable element of comprehensive work–family policies.

Maternity protection for women workers has been a core concern of the ILO since its foundation in 1919, when the governments, employers and trade unions of member States adopted the first Convention on maternity protection No. 3, which was followed by the adoption of other two Maternity Protection Conventions: No. 103 in 1952 and No. 183 in 2000.

The most recent international labour standards on maternity protection are Convention No. 183 and Recommendation No. 191 (2000) which comprise five core elements of maternity protection at work:

And it also contemplates beyond maternity and back to work.

The goal of maternity protection legislation is to enable women to combine their reproductive and productive roles successfully and to promote equal opportunities and treatment in employment and occupation, without prejudice to health or economic security.

Maternity protection is important because it protects the health and safety of the mother and the child, it protects against economic vulnerability due to pregnancy and maternity, and it is central to gender equality in employment.

These Conventions, together with their corresponding Recommendations (No. 95, 1952; No. 191, 2000) have over time expanded the scope and entitlements related to maternity protection at work in line with the evolving status and recognition of women’s rights in the world of work.

International labour standards on maternity protection, in line with the Equal Remuneration Convention No. 100, 1951 and the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention No. 111, 1958, have indeed reaffirmed the principle of equality of opportunity and treatment for men and women, which is at the heart of social justice, the constitutional mandate of the ILO.

In addition, the adoption of the ILO Workers with Family Responsibilities Convention No. 156, 1981 marked the recognition that “a change in the traditional role of men as well as the role of women in society and in the family is needed to achieve full equality between men and women”, as stated in the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979.

Virtually every country around the world provides some type of maternity protection legislation and many others also adopted measures to support workers with family responsibilities: a total of 66 countries ratified at least one of the three maternity protection Conventions adopted by ILO member States since 1919.

Recent ILO data on 185 countries and territories show that 34 per cent fully meet the requirements of ILO Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 (No. 183), and Recommendation, 2000 (No. 191) on three key aspects: they provide for at least 14 weeks of leave at a rate of at least two-thirds of previous earnings, paid by social insurance or public funds.

Also fathers undertaking a more active role in caregiving is likely to be one of the most significant social developments of the twenty-first century.