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Small Businesses Raise Concern On Maternity, Paternity Leave

Small Businesses Raise Concern On Maternity, Paternity Leave
July 03
13:59 2018

Small and micro business houses have raised concerns on the extension of maternity and introduction of paternity leave.

During the announcement of the national Budget last Thursday, the Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said it was Government’s job to grant new or expecting parents flexibility and give them financial stability.

“That is why we’re also increasing paid maternity leave from 84 working days to 98 working days, adding another two weeks for mothers to take-off from work in the preparation of the birth and in the care of their children,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

“And for the very first time, we’re also introducing paid 5-day paternity leave for fathers, effective from 1 January 2019. That leave can be taken three months before or three months after the birth of his child.”

Manoca Gas managing director Faizal Khan said small business houses could not afford 98 working days of maternity leave.

He said some small business organisations like his were not happy with the extension of maternity leave to 98 days and five days of paternity leave.

“Because not all business houses can afford to pay their employees,” Mr Khan said.

“Maybe it is a good initiative for overseas countries, but Fiji cannot afford that.

“We cannot do much but to accept the law. Now we will be careful in employing would-be mothers, rather not employing them.

Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission director Ashwin Raj said Mr Khan’s sentiments were discriminatory and unconstitutional.

“The Fijian Constitution under section 26 (3) (a) expressly prohibits discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy,” Mr Raj said.

The Section 26 (3) (a) states: A person must not be unfairly discriminated against, directly or indirectly on the grounds of his or her— actual or supposed personal characteristics or circumstances.

Mr Raj said Government must be commended for the legal recognition of paternity leave and the extension of maternity leave to 98 working days.

With more than 300 employees, Damodar Group chief executive officer, Div Damodar said the new initiative was great for parents and businesses would need to embrace this as it improved employees’ welfare.

“Workflow will be interrupted, but it requires employers to better plan their staffing.

“It improves employee morale knowing their new-born will be better cared for as both parents spend more time and for some financial assistance is provided,” Mr Damodar said.

Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation chief executive officer Nesbitt Hazelman said the additional leave could be costly for businesses.

“The larger organisations will be able to sustain that cost to some extent, but our fear is on the small and micro businesses that employ three to 10 people at maximum,” Mr Hazelman said.

“It will be mainly felt on the smaller organisations, but the Government’s initiative is there to improve the work-life balance.”

Edited by Percy Kean



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