Trinidad: maternity leave law aligns ILO standards

By Joel Julien

Working mothers are to get more time to bond with their newborns, Acting Prime Minister Errol McLeod announced yesterday. Government plans to increase maternity leave to 14 weeks, McLeod, the substantive Labour Minister, said as he addressed the Employers’ Consultative Association (ECA), during a forum at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad hotel in Port of Spain.

Maternity leave in this country is governed by the Maternity Protection Act, No 4 of 1998, which binds both private employers and the State, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) website.

Under the Maternity Protection Act, female employees are entitled to 13 weeks maternity leave (six weeks prior to confinement, seven weeks after) and one month’s pay during such leave, the ILO website stated.

Cabinet has approved the increase of maternity by a week, McLeod said yesterday.

“Cabinet agreed, subject to relevant consultations, to the amendment to the Maternity Protection Act, Chapter 45, to provide for a period of 14 weeks, in lieu of 13 weeks, in keeping with ILO convention on maternity protection,” McLeod said.

“I’m sure that our women will welcome that,” he added.

[ILO Convention 183 on Maternity protection (2000) states that “a woman to whom this Convention applies shall be entitled to a period of maternity leave of not less than 14 weeks”.  However, Trinidad  has not ratified yet any of the three ILO Conventions on Maternity Protection.]

McLeod also spent time on the minimum wage.

“I don’t think anybody in Trinidad and Tobago would prefer a much higher minimum wage than the current Minister of Labour, Small and Micro Enterprises,” McLeod, a former union leader, said.

Last week, McLeod announced the minimum wage will be increased from $9 an hour to $12.50 an hour. Yesterday, however, McLeod said according to statistics from the Central Statistical Office (CSO), only 3.3 per cent of the working force was working for less that $13 an hour in 2009. He described the setting of the minimum wage as a “delicate balancing act”.

Appointments to the Minimum Wage Board are scheduled to be announced next Tuesday, McLeod said, and he will meet with the board in October.

He also questioned this country placing of 84th out of 139 countries in the recently released Global Competitiveness Ranking.

McLeod said the low rating was not as a result of the minimum wage, but our work ethic and business management needed to be addressed. He called for a review of the Occupational Safety and Health Authority and the legislation governing it.

(Trinidad Express)

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