Feature:Labour law and women in labour

Changes that devise the world into a better developed place, comes as a result of efforts to working hard. This make up time use to be fixed to what exactly people have to accomplish. Every thing that people have to do is based on specific programmes.
Jeane d'Arc Mujawamariya as a lady and Minister of Gender and Family promotion will not stand exploitation.
Jeane d'Arc Mujawamariya as a lady and Minister of Gender and Family promotion will not stand exploitation.

Changes that devise the world into a better developed place, comes as a result of efforts to working hard. This make up time use to be fixed to what exactly people have to accomplish. Every thing that people have to do is based on specific programmes.

Unlike the past, this generation mothers have not waited the daily bread from home. They have actively participated in the wellbeing of the family economically by taking on some responsibilities from fathers.

Despite their efforts in achieving the goal, life has become challenging for some in playing two different and important roles in life. As they concentrate on work, giving birth is equally important. It’s one way through which our mothers can make their marriage stronger than when they fail.

Sometimes disputes arise when a couple has to decide as to when is the appropriate time to have a child. This period calls for debates basing on the hard moments the mother has to undergo. Which include inconveniencies that can lead to failures in carrying on their duties at work place and other related issues.

This is proved as some women have forwarded a case to the Minister of Gender and Family Promotion claiming they were laid-off because they are pregnant.

“Yes women complain and some have written to me. The reason they have put forward for their lay-off is that they are pregnant,” Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya.

On hearing such an allegation, the first thing that clings into someone’s mind, is to face the court of law.

However, the Minister said that although these women have addressed their problems with such an allegation, it is not enough evidence to base on in making a decision about their claim.

“If you want to know the truth, you can not listen to one side. It’s important to follow the issue sensitively and discover the cause after hearing from employer too. Both sides are equally important to each, therefore a decision to forego one another is hard to take,” she noted.

“It is not right to lay-off workers or women just because they are pregnant, but if it’s a matter of misbehaving and failure to execute, the employer can make a decision to stop any one from work,” she said.

She added that women should understand that people will not always feel sorry for them when ever they are pregnant.

“We are not vulnerable, that the public will always sympathize with us in times of work because we are pregnant,” she said adding that it’s not possible unless women declare that they are vulnerable which is not. 

However, she advised that it’s better to settle the issue amicably depending on the benefits that each side gains from another.

When contacted Alexander Twahirwa, Legal expert in charge of labours legislation in the Ministry of Labour and Public Service, said that the regulating Labour law  in Rwanda ( law no 9 ) prohibits terminating a pregnant mother or one in a maternity leave.

He explained that the labour law is clear when defending both parties. Although it prohibits terminating women just because they are pregnant, it gives room were the labour`s productivity has exist as the contract states.

“It’s illegal to terminate a mother because of pregnancy, or when she is on her maternity leave. When found guilty, the penalty is determined by courts of law, but the labour law states that it must be doubled,” Wahirwa explained.  

 He explained that if it is realized that the employer terminated the contract because of pregnancy; he or she has to be penalized considering the damage he caused to not only the mother but the entire family of that mother.

However, based on how women change during pregnancy, he said that when employers base on their output, claiming they can no longer perform, they have to prove it to court.

“Yes they have to prove to court showing how labour is not executing. Its a different case when a pregnant mother reports sickness to the employer,” he said explaining that not only mothers, but any one who reports prolonged sickness and proves it, is entitled to a period of 3 months rest with full pay, when it exceeds that period, the employer is allowed to replace such a worker.

Concerning maternity leave, he said that a mother is entitled to a leave of 12 weeks of which the 6 weeks are automatic with full salary pay, unlike the last six weeks which are optional depending on the health of the mother.

When the mother decides to stay at home for the last six weeks, she earns only 20 per cent of her salary, but not terminated from work.

However, the expert advised that women in this case have to realize the importance of keeping a good and recommendable work relationship by communicating to their managers about their time to resume work. He said this will helps in avoiding terminations when such a mother will resume work.

Doctor Diane Gashumba, Director of Muhima Hospital, said that in times of pregnancy, women change in many different ways. Therefore these changes may affect their performance although others become stronger than before.

“Mothers face many challenges during pregnancy. It is therefore possible for them to work even harder or become weak. It’s essential to handle them considering their health conditions,” she advised.

However, she added that this should not put them in a situation were they expect special treatment that they can enable them to perform beyond the confines of work.

“No one is above the law, be it work regulations, pregnant mothers must obey and avoid misbehaving before their bosses, instead work hard,” she stressed.

Gashumba advised that as women, they have to understand the roles to play in their communities by taking on all their responsibilities.

“We have the responsibility of being wives to our husbands, mothers to children, alongside contributing towards the economic welfare of the home,” she noted.

She said that unless the above are combined and coordinated effectively by mothers, they have a long way to go.

Clare Effiong, Director of Esters Aid an employer of about 30 people, said that if someone can’t consider the problems a pregnant mother goes through, and fails to value the gains he or she gets from her employee, then there must be some thing that is not right.

“I am saying this out of experience as an employer. I had to settle out that very case with one of my worker who could not execute because she was pregnant. The option was not to stop her from work but negotiate terms of work and what next after birth,” she said.

She explained that failure to sympathize with a pregnant mother and resorting to laying her-off singles out a wrong element between the employee and the employer, adding that it’s advisable to work hard in times of pregnancy so as to be strong which helps in times of giving birth.

Advising, she said that “When you realize that you are pregnant, inform your employer in time. It’s not for medical reasons, but you might change in the performance of your duties. This may come as a result of effects of the pregnancy”.

Esther Mbabazi, a mother of four, said that there is no experience in pregnancy. That each time a women gets pregnant, she experiences differently, although other pregnancies show similar signs and changes.

“Although I am a mother of four, two boys and girls, I do not have experience about pregnancy time. This is due to the fact that each pregnancy shows different signs and effects to a mother, yet sometimes things happen to be the same,” she said.

Mbabazi said that the effects of pregnancy are perceived differently from mother to mother. That it’s normal for a mother giving birth for the first time to deliver safely and a mother of two goes for an operation to give birth.

“The health condition of a mother is very important since a healthy and strong one stands more chances of giving a normal birth than one who is weak,” she noted.

She explained that in such a situation, some mothers remain strong and perfect to perform their duties unlike others who become weak and unable to execute.

However, she admitted that depending on the stage of pregnancy, a mother can fail to perform most especially when she does manual work.

“Yes, based on how the mother feels about the pregnancy, working is not easy mostly when one is engaged in manual work moreover under supervision,” admitted.

The Minister of Gender and Family Promotion, Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya, at the closing ceremony of the National Assembly for the National Women Council at national level, took time to discuss with women representatives some of the articles of the Gender based Violence law.

This was in an effort to sensitize them on their defence within the law to avoid mistreatment by employers.

At a random public opinion, individuals had almost the same feeling about lay-off of pregnant mothers and contented with the period mothers are entitled to as maternity leave.

Benona Rutabuuka, businessman in Kimironko who I found in town at a place popularly known as Kwarubangura suggested that pregnant mothers should be given special-extra treatment even at work, urging that employers are human beings they should understand that one their mother suffered the same way.

While Lydia  Asiimwe, a hair dresser, focused on women’s health conditions after birth which may either improve in time or not. She therefore called upon employers to consider their health conditions before they take decisions. However, like mentioned before, she noted communication as an important network to keep employers updated about health conditions and others related.

It should be comforting that there are many checks and balances to ensure fairness in workplaces in the country. However, employers and employees should always endeavour that they are conversant with the labour law in order not to breach it or be exploited respectively.

Email: mugoyag@yahoo.com