Maternity leave benefit scheme is expected to be gazetted on July 1, paving way for working women going on a 12-week maternity leave to be paid their full salary throughout their leave.
Once the new law governing the maternity insurance scheme comes into force, employers will be paying full salary for the first six weeks for a working parent on maternity leave, while the last six weeks of the leave will be paid for in full salary by the insurance scheme.
But how will this be feasible considering the meagre percentage that the law will require employees to contribute?
Technocrats say the amount that employees and employers will contribute to the Maternity Leave Benefits scheme is too little but with big potential to resolve a long-standing problem of mothers being compelled to return to work to fend for their newborn babies.
For every employee in the country–regardless of how much they are paid or where they work – a fee of 0.3 per cent of their gross salary minus transport allowances will be collected by the employer and deposited to the Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB) as a contribution to the maternity fund.
However, it is not only the employees who will be contributing to the Fund since employers will also be required to provide an equivalent of 0.3 per cent of every employee’s gross salary to RSSB as a contribution to the maternity fund.
In other words, RSSB will be collecting 0.6 per cent of every employee’s salary with half of the money paid by the employer.
For example, an employee who earns a gross salary of Rwf100,000 per month will contribute Rwf300 to the maternity fund.
Both the employee’s contribution and the equivalent employer’s contribution will be deposited by the employer to the RSSB as a contribution to the Maternity Leave Benefits scheme.
Under the draft law, “the Social Security Administration shall pay to a woman, on a monthly basis, maternity leave benefits equal to her net salary based on average remunerations declared for the last three months.”
The Director for Maternity Leave benefits at RSSB, Yvonne Mujawabega, said the contributions may look too meagre to talk home about, but they are bound to solve a crucial problem of mothers on maternity leave who would rush back to work instead of taking care of their newborn babies.
“Its little money from everyone’s package but it will solve a lot of problems. It is clear that people can solve serious problems if they pull their resources together,” Mujawabega said.
Employers welcome scheme
Briefing the media on the development on Monday, Finance and Economic Planning minister Claver Gatete said the maternity fund was welcomed by many, including leaders of private businesses and non-governmental organisations who will be depositing their employees’ contributions to the Fund along with other statutory contributions such as fees for the pension scheme.
Working women currently collect their full salary in the first six weeks of their maternity leave, while they have to come back to work in the second half of their leave or surrender 80 per cent of their monthly salary if they opt to stay home.
Ritesh Patel, the chief finance officer of Utexrwa Ltd, a garment factory in Kigali that employs more than 300 women of its 450 labour force, said the maternity fund will enable the company’s female workers to be more productive after staying longer on their maternity leave.
“Sometimes women would come back to work when they are not ready because six weeks fully paid leave was not enough for them. With extra fully paid six weeks, they will be coming back to work when they have taken enough rest and they will be productive at work,” he said.
Patel also said his company will afford to pay 0.3 per cent for every employee because, he said, it’s not a lot of money considering the benefits.
The Secretary-General of Rwanda’s biggest Trade Union, Cestrar, Eric Manzi, said the trade union supports the creation of the maternity insurance fund.
“Deducting 0.3 per cent from every employee’s gross salary is reasonable enough. What we have asked for is that the scheme should be assessed every three years to check if we can increase our contribution in case the initial rate of contribution is not enough. We really need the scheme to be sustainable,” Manzi told The New Times yesterday.
The Human Resource Manager at I&M Bank Rwanda Ltd, Diana Kwarisiima, said they have welcomed the introduction of the Fund because it will halve what the bank has been incurring in meeting salary for female staff on maternity leave since they have been paying full salary for all the 12-week maternity leave.
“Our staff on maternity leave have been receiving 100 per cent of their pay for all the 12 weeks. Therefore, the introduction of this Fund will keep our cost at 50 per cent,” Kwarisiima said.