Maternity leave moved to 16 weeks, 7-day paternity leave introduced

PHILIPSBURG--Mothers of new-born babies will receive maternity leave of sixteen weeks and their “partners” will now receive paid paternity leave of seven days once the changes to the civil code and other country regulations go into effect.
  Members of Parliament (MPs) on Monday approved the changes during the continuation of a meeting that dates back several years. The amendments relate to the replacement of the seventh title A of Book 7A with a new Title 10 of Book 7 regulating the requirements for employment. Amendments by United Democrats (UD) MPs Sarah Wescot-Williams and Tamara Leonard were also given the green light at the end of the meeting.
  Highlights of the changes include shortening the period within which workers can become permanent and increasing the maternity leave from the current 12 weeks to 16 weeks.
  The original maternity leave proposal was 14 weeks in accordance with International Labour Organisation standards, but Leonard submitted an amendment to increase it to 16 weeks. Leonard’s original amendment was 18 weeks for mothers and two weeks for partners, but she said this would have been too much of a burden for employers and a new amendment was submitted recently.  
  “The extension of the [maternity – Ed.] leave gives a positive incentive to the bonding process between mother and child, which is of paramount importance in the first few weeks after the birth. Several studies also point to the fact that breastfeeding reduces the risk of infant mortality. Women who stay at home longer with their child tend to breastfeed longer,” Leonard said in her amendment.
  “In addition, the physical recovery of a birth for the mother should not be underestimated. This takes the necessary time and should not be rushed. During maternity leave, female employees are entitled to 100 per cent continued payment of wages. The mother must be able to take care of her child in peace and without worrying about finances.”
  Regarding the seven-day paternity leave, she said employees who are related to the new-born by marriage, recognition of the unborn child or recognition of the child are entitled to continued payment of wages for a period of seven days around birth.
  “After all, the mother’s partner is equally important in the development of a child. It is important that the partner also has the opportunity to attach to the child. In addition, the birth of a child brings about all kinds of changes in the lives of the parents. It is a good thing that all burdens are not only on the mother, but that the partner is also given the opportunity to contribute.”
  A noteworthy amendment proposed by Wescot-Williams, which was approved, includes in Article 668A, which seeks to regulate the “revolving door” employment practice of sending workers home for three months and then rehiring them on a new temporary contract. A shorter duration is now in place for the period within which an employee can become permanent.
  Currently workers can become permanent after 36 months (three years). The change reduces this to 24 months (two years). Wescot-Williams’ amendment is for workers to be granted two contracts as opposed to the current three before they can become permanent. This is also true if consecutive employers are each other’s successors, such as in the Pelican case, if they belong to the same group of companies.
  “Any attempt to circumvent this article will be considered abuse and illegal. However, legislation alone cannot address he abuse of short-term labour agreements without increasing enforcement and compliance,” the changes to article 668a read.
  Another of Wescot-Williams’ important amendments is to Article 665 and seeks to regulate termination during transfer of enterprise. This article did not address severance pay if employees decide to terminate their work agreement during the transfer of enterprise.
  The change is for employers to be required to pay severance to workers in cases where an employee decides to dissolve his or her employee agreement due to substantial changes in the organisation in which he/she works. Even if the employee decides to leave on his or her own accord under this circumstance, severance will be due. However, if the worker decides to leave after a transfer, if there is no substantial change in their agreement then no severance pay is due. 
  Other civil code changes approved on Monday include expanding the areas for which paid leave can be granted to workers. This is regulated in Article 629, and currently covers areas such as childbirth, death in the family, the funeral of a member of the household or relative, and other days mentioned in the labour regulation.
  Article 658A, which covers the reintegration of disabled workers, previously stated that employers were obligated to find suitable work for disabled workers, but there is currently no limitation on this mandate. The change is to add that the employer must “do everything” in their power as far as is available.
  Article 614A, which regulates when a fixed-term contract can be used, was removed from the civil code because multiple fixed-term contracts were still possible; it was still difficult to ensure persons were not getting numerous contracts; the conditions in the proposal were hard to interpret and difficult to enforce; and certain fixed-term contracts were not possible, such as three-year contracts, often used for lawyers and government employees, etc.
  Under Article 626, which regulates payslips, the change is for employees to be given the option of providing payslips to their employees electronically in addition to having the option of providing a hardcopy.
  The changes were necessary when it comes to transfer of enterprises to prevent situations such as the Pelican-type debacle from recurring. Issues such as equal treatment, gender equality, labour agreements and addressing pregnancy leave were other factors motivating the need to bring proposed changes to the civil code.
  A number of articles were amended with primarily technical changes covering issues such as numbering, modernisation of language and new terminology to bring the civil code up to date. Some articles have content-related changes, some were revised, some received substantive changes and one was removed.
  Important to note is that the changes had been presented to the Tripartite Committee. Also, some of the points under discussion as part of the labour reform are reforming the AOV to increase the pensionable age to 65 and giving persons the possibility of purchasing missing years to receive their full benefits.
  The changes to the civil code to address the abuse of short-term labour contracts were first proposed by the National Alliance (NA) faction in Parliament in 2011. The Department of Labour revised NA’s proposal in consultation with the party and under the guidance of former Labour Minister, now Justice Minister Cornelius de Weever. Substantial work on the changes was also done under former Health, Labour and Social Affairs VSA Minister Emil Lee, against whom a vote of no confidence was recently passed.
  Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin, as Acting VSA Minister, updated MPs on the changes and answered their questions during Monday’s meeting.
The Daily Herald

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