Experts say that the government’s new strategy for bolstering birth rate, which stipulates so far the biggest financial incentives for new mothers, is simply not enough if it is not coupled with the wider cooperation between society’s stakeholders, primarily employers who often don’t want to hire women who are planning on becoming mothers, or are demoting their female workers to worse jobs after they come back from maternity leave.
Although large companies claim that they take good care of their female employees, that they support woman’s choice to become pregnant and have a lot of pregnant women as employees, the Association of Free and Independent Trade Unions (ASNS) says that they have at least one case a week where female employees, who are planning on starting a family or returning from maternity leave, have been mistreated by their employers.
The ASNS President, Ranka Savic points out that for women, when deciding to have or expand their family, having job safety is very important. “Quite a few employers ask female job candidates if they have children or are planning to have any, without any hesitation. Some of them tell the candidates straight away that if they were planning on having children soon, they needn’t have bothered to apply for a job in the first place. As the reason for this, the potential employers cite not being able to afford a pregnant worker”, Savic says.
She adds that, oftentimes, new mothers, upon returning to work from maternity leave, will be forced to sign new job contracts stipulating their demotion to worse jobs which is actually the first step towards termination of their employment, in many cases.
Noting that such behaviour by employers is inadmissible, Savic also says that the state cannot expect a lot from the employers if it does not provide various reliefs for socially responsible companies. She also underlines that existing laws provide quite a strong protection for maternity rights, but that the main problem is that they are not implemented.
The existing regulation, among other things, gives new mothers the right to choose whether they would like to work mornings or afternoons, or work four hours a day, or work from home. The new mothers, who have just returned from their maternity leave, also have the right to take time off for breastfeeding, and if they work eight hours a day, they are entitled to spend 40 minutes breastfeeding during their working hours.
Savic adds that very few women actually go ahead and instigate legal proceedings against employers who violate the law because these disputes can be costly, long lasting and difficult to prove. Also, women have lost faith in courts and their objectivity.
Savic also says that there are also good examples among employers, like the Metalac Company which is known for their fair treatment of pregnant employees and giving financial compensation to new mothers.
According to the aforementioned government strategy, new mothers will receive a one-off financial assistance in the amount of 100,000 dinars for the first child, 10,000 a month for a period of 2 years for the second child, 12,000 dinars a month for 10 years for the third child, and 18,000 dinars a month for 10 years for the fourth child.
Some measures will be applicable as of 1st July this year while the rest from the beginning of next year. All incentives are applicable to children born after 1st January, 2018.
(Vecernje Novosti, 27.03.2018)
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