Globally, about 830 million working women are denied adequate maternity leave. According to the International Labor Organization, eighty percent of those women are in Africa and Asia.

Shell, the first major integrated oil and gas company to raise the number of weeks to sixteen called theirs “the global minimum standard.” Swell, then, how Guinness has raised the game by ten weeks, with the announcement two weeks ago that moms will now get twenty-six weeks paid maternity leave.   

According to Nigeria’s Labor Act, a pregnant female worker is entitled to six weeks before the expected delivery date and another six weeks post-delivery. During that time, she’s entitled to at least half of her regular salary. That’s twelve weeks of paid leave in Nigeria, per the constitution.

In the International Labor Organization’s Maternity Protection Convention no. 183, “14 weeks of maternity” are provided for new mothers. It also stipulates that women who are absent from work on maternity leave “shall be entitled to a cash benefit which ensures they can maintain themselves and their child in proper conditions of health and with a suitable standard of living and which shall be no less than two-thirds of her previous earnings or a comparable amount.”

The convention also protects the pregnant woman or nursing mother from doing work harmful to her health or that of her child and protects her from maternity-based discrimination. It also prohibits employers from terminating the employment of a woman during pregnancy or absence on maternity leave. Women returning to work must also be returned to the same position or an equivalent position paid at the same rate.

Guinness, by permitting new moms to stay at home for half the year, fully paid, have not only succeeded in making her health a priority, but they’re also making the child’s comfort a priority. In this arrangement, by the time the newborn is brought to work, she’ll be in the later stages of pre-weaning.

Guinness Human Resources Director, Bola Olajomi-Otubu, one of three women in the company’s eight-person executive, said, “I’m delighted to see Guinness Nigeria making this move, and it is a pleasure to be a part of the team facilitating this change in the business. Parental leave gives both mothers and fathers the chance to spend quality time with their child in the important first months of life, creating a bond that will last a lifetime. Employers can reap the benefits, too – flexibility in work is proven to create happier, more loyal and more productive workforces.”

Globally, only five countries are yet to mandate maternity leave. Of those five, four are African nations; Lesotho, Swaziland, Liberia, and Papua New Guinea.  

In Germany, nursing mothers are paid $470 a month, about 420 euros, covering the costs of staying at home and also raising a child. In South Africa, Swedish automaker Volvo, offer a combined six months of partially paid leave (eighty percent of regular pay) to both parents.

Rwanda’s parliament, on the other hand, drew up legislation that lets women employed by the state to receive full benefits while absent six weeks before birth, and state-funded maternity benefits for six weeks post-delivery.

Ironically, in the US, where employers are not mandated to provide maternity leave or benefits, mothers have some of the best leave packages. Netflix lets new moms take a year, fully paid. At Adobe and Etsy, it’s twenty-six weeks. Spotify provides six months.

Maybe more African businesses should ignore vapid government legislation and just do it because it is great for their business. And really, because it’s the decent thing to do. The Guinness example should be lauded and possibly replicated.

By Caleb Ajinomoh

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