By Kebba AF Touray
The National Assembly on Monday 6th September 2021 adopted the report of the joint committee on health and trade which seeks to protect pregnant women and children.
The bill seeks to review and repeal the provisions of the Labour Act found to be discriminatory against women and girls in the Gambia in furtherance of the Gambia’s international obligations and in line with the constitution and for connected matters.
Section 71(1) of the Labour Act states that “Every woman is entitled to a period of six months maternity leave with pay or with comparable social benefit without loss of employment, seniority or similar benefits”
The act further states in section 71(2) that: “In order to reinforce the common responsibility of men in the upbringing and development of their children, every father is entitled to a reasonable period of time not exceeding ten working days paternity leave with pay”.
Laying the report before lawmakers, Ousman Sillah, Co-Chair of the joint committee, explained that the report seeks to amend section 71 of the bill entitled Labour (Amendment) Bill 2020
He informed the assembly that during the scrutiny of the bill, the committee invited witnesses such as officials from the ministries of Women, Children and Social Welfare and Health and Justice; Public Service Commission (PSC); Personnel Management Office (PMO); Gambia Women’s Federation, Department of Labour, among others.
Sillah said all the witnesses invited by the committee supported the amendment, which included the protection of women and children as their lives are sacrosanct and must be protected at all cost.
“The joint committee in view of the views of the witnesses therefore recommends that section 71(1) be amended to read: “Every woman is entitled to a period of six months maternity leave, effective two months before delivery and four months after delivery, with pay or with comparable social benefits without loss of employment, seniority or similar benefits,” he said.
Sillah also told the assembly that the committee among others observed that the members emphasized the importance of six (6) months exclusive breastfeeding of a child, and therefore say they will not recommend anything less than 6 months for maternity leave and not more than 10 days for paternity leave. With regard to paternity leave, he said the joint committee supported the recommendation of the health ministry.
The ministry recommended that “Any confirmed male employee of the civil service or any other hired employee of an institution within the Gambia, whose spouse is pregnant or delivered, will be entitled to fifteen working days of paternity leave, with salary beginning the day his spouse delivered, his absence from work due to his spouse pregnancy and labour related illness or her expected week of delivery, if he submits a copy of his spouse satisfactory medical\delivery certificate”.
Legislators, who took part in the debate congratulated the joint committee for a job well executed and expressed their support for the amendment as it seeks to protect pregnant women, children and the work of women. The next stage which is the consideration stage will be scheduled as part of the session.