Members of the committee on political affairs and gender in the Parliament’s Chamber of Deputies yesterday started examining a proposed law that seeks to establish a fund that will make it possible for women on maternity leave to get their full monthly salary.
The draft law that governs the Maternity Leave Benefits Scheme was tabled in the Lower Chamber of Parliament in May.
The proposed maternity fund bill has remained a priority on the House’s agenda with most legislators saying that setting up the maternity fund remains a top priority for the country.
Under Rwanda’s Labour Law, every employed woman has the right to a maternity leave of 12 consecutive weeks.
But the same law also states that during the first six weeks of her maternity leave a mother has the right to her full salary, but is obliged to return to work or get only 20 per cent (20%) of her salary in case she stays home for the remaining six weeks of her maternity leave.
So, most working women on maternity leave would come back to work after the first six weeks of giving birth because most of them could not afford to forego their pay.
By establishing the Maternity Leave Benefits Scheme, the Government wants to make it possible for the mothers to receive their full monthly salary for the entire 12 weeks of their maternity leave without having to come back to work.
As lawmakers in the parliamentary committee on political affairs and gender began their scrutiny of the bill on the scheme, its chairperson, MP Alfred Kayiranga Rwasa, urged fellow MPs to endorse the proposals in the law given its importance for the Rwandan society.
“The Government has chosen to set up this fund in the interest of all Rwandans. It is good that we have a government that cares for all Rwandans,” he said.
The Bill proposes that the fund’s management be placed under the Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB), but its assets managed separately from other social security aspects.
According to the Bill, both formal employees and employers based in Rwanda will contribute to the scheme, but the rate of contribution shall be determined by a presidential order and shall be equally shared between the employer and the employee.
Dr Uzziel Ndagijimana, the Minister of State in charge of Economic Planning, told legislators yesterday that the Government has already considered deducting 0.6 per cent of every employee’s salary for the fund.
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.
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.
For example, an employee who earns a gross salary of Rwf100,000 per month will contribute Rwf300 to the maternity fund. The employer will also contribute the Rwf300 for the employee.
“It is not a lot of money but if it is well collected it will help to solve a big problem. Mothers will have enough time to look after their babies,” Dr Ndagijimana said.
Most legislators at yesterday’s session wondered if the Government made enough consultations with workers about deducting their salaries to contribute to the maternity fund or whether there will be reluctance to contribute to the fund once the law is in place.
“However small the deductions may be, the workers are always concerned when you touch their salaries,” said MP Esperance Nyirasafari.
MP Jean Marie Vianney Gatabazi agrees, saying, “there should be enough consultations with workers because you just don’t touch their salaries without their consent”.
Dr Ndagijimana said a lot of consultations were made with workers’ unions and employers while drafting the law and it was agreed that setting up the fund was in everyone’s interest.
“Most people told us that this fund is long overdue. They look at it as a solution,” he said.
Apart from scrutiny in the Chamber of Deputies, the Bill on Maternity Leave Benefits Scheme will also require approval of the Senate before it is sent to the President for his final assent.