Maternity Leave Puzzles Business
10 October, 2013
Maternity Leave Puzzles Business
The much expected and touted Co-Investment Fund comprising USD six billion of seed capital took off officially on 30 September 2013. The fund will be co-financing large-scale investment projects that require at least five million USD worth investments, while its participation range will vary from 25% to 75%. Investors will not be involved in the management of the fund prioritizing agriculture, logistics, real estate, energy and tourism. The expected rise in birth may lead to the slump in employment of female
workforce in Georgia if Parliament will not become more open to the private sector’s opinion. This could be an aftermath of upcoming changes to the labor code, which makes maternity leave much longer and better paid. It may tempt women to become moms more frequently than they do today.
Once the new labor code expected to provide better protection to employees came into effect this summer, Minister of Justice promised this was just a part of changes and the follow up focused on improvement of women’s employment rights would have come by fall. Government kept the promise. However this time initiative came from the legislative body instead of Ministry of Justice as expected. Parliament has already passed amendments to labor code which enhances maternity leave from current 477 days to 730, out of which the range of paid days increases from 126 to 183 and the payment rate increases from GEL 600 to GEL 1000 respectively. However, if a woman gives birth to twins or has a difficult baby delivery, the paid maternity leave extends from 140 to 200 days. The state is responsible to pay the increased rate of GEL 1000 and in order to finance this aid, GEL 3.5 million has been built in the state budget of 2014, Guguli Maghradze, MP and one of the initiators of the amendments, said. According to Maghradze, if based on a salary, a woman employee deserves higher than GEL 1000 payment, the difference is at the discretion of the entrepreneur to cover but this provision is not obligatory.
“This issue will be negotiable but business is also supposed to bear social responsibilities and contribute to such an important thing as a rise in birth,” Maghradze told Georgian Journal.
The private sector who has already been feeling disappointed since the first part of new labor code entered into effect without taking into account the opinion of the private sector as the latter believes, feels more neglected now and predicts worse aftermaths. According to Mikheil Kordzakhia, Executive Director of the Association of Georgian Employees, changes have already passed two parliamentary hearings without broader discussion of the issue by the private and public sector, whereas the consensus is substantial to all sides involved for achieving a positive result.
“Our problem is not the increased payment since it is financed by government but the prolonged maternity leave that may stretch to more than 6 months. The longer an employee is torn from the activity, the higher is the risk that her qualification gets worse and then we, employers, have to invest more to raise their qualification to an adequate level again. Besides, you have to find someone to fill the temporary maternity vacancy and after the maternity leave expires, you have to get her back too because you cannot fire that person according to the law. And if the state does not aid us somehow there is a serious risk that employers will think twice before they hire women,” Kordzakhia elaborated.
Maghradze argues they informed both private and public sectors on upcoming changes as early as in summer and a little haste was made now in order to allocate due finances in the state budget of 2014, which is already at the parliament. Kordzakhia explains that initiators simply annunciated the changes but nobody inquired about the opinion of business and offered no alternative tools to make entrepreneurs interested in women labor. “In all normal countries it is the state that provides training to women after maternity leave or offers other alternative ways to make employers interested in women workforce such as taxation preferences, for example. But Georgian MPs repeat the mistakes of previous authorities. I see that they are doing things only at their discretion,” Kordzakhia said.
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