THE Federal Government has increased maternity leave for women from 12 weeks to 16. The government also advised women to seek legal action against discrimination and abuses at workplace.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, said this when he addressed a plenary session at the ongoing 107th International Labour Conference holding in Geneva, Switzerland on Tuesday.
The theme of the conference is “A Future With Decent Work.”
Ngige had noted that in public service, Nigeria recently increased the period for maternity leave from 12 to 16 weeks “to allow enough recuperation time for both baby and mother in terms of breastfeeding.”
He added that all disciplinary proceedings against any female member of staff which may have been taken during period of her maternity leave shall be put in abeyance till the expiration of the leave.
“Employers of labour are also barred from removal of women from work due to their marital status.
“Illegal labour migration, contract staffing and labour casualisation which affects most women are being reformed through policies and regulations at national, bilateral and multilateral levels.
Ngige said that the promotion of youths and women employment and enhancement of the status of women at workplace had continued to be a challenge in the society over the last decade.
According to him, the most effective method of eliminating gender inequality from the workplace lies in vigorous opposition to employers’ discriminatory conducts, policies and harassment in all forms whenever they occur.
“Women who fall victims to these abuses are encouraged to oppose such through legal actions as well as report to labour inspectors,’’ he said.
He stressed the need to put in place appropriate legislation, policies and practices to deal with the gender gaps which inhibit greater participation of women in the labour force.
According to him, the injection of punitive measures and sanctions into Labour Inspection Guide, Law and Code of practice, can serve as future deterrent.
The minister assured that the Nigerian government was committed to promoting youths and women employment as well as enhance the status of women at workplace.
Ngige said this had been exacerbated by economic recession brought about by fall in oil price, and militancy in some parts of the country.
“This is especially in the North-East, and the issue of returnee migrants, majority of whom are women and young girls trafficked for slavery and sex work.
“For a country in which females constitute 49.4 per cent of the total population of over 190 million, it is therefore, imperative that the issues which hinder increased and effective women participation in the labour force be properly addressed,’’ he said.
He said that the government drew up and had been implementing an Economic Recovery and Growth Plan aimed at addressing gender inequality and youths unemployment
Ngige said Nigeria had also initiated a School-to-Work (N-Power) programme, designed to empower young women and men with skills to facilitate their entry into labour market.
The programme, he said, had an initial two years’ span.
The minister, however, noted that Nigerian government had taken some specific measures to address inequality and had recorded some successes.
According to him, some of the successes reordered are the principle of equal pay for equal work for all, without discrimination on account of sex.
This, he added, was enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.
He also said that employers of labour in both the public and private sectors were by regulations requested to provide workplace crèches for nursing mothers for ease at workplace.
He called for technical assistance from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in the area of gender audits. (NAN)