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The UAE Maternity Law and Women’s Employment Behaviour Thesis


Abstract

The constitution of the UAE entitles women to enjoy the same status as the men in society. The religion also gives equal rights to both the genders; however, women face a lot of complexities in continuing their employment. Despite being a significant part of the workforce, they are devoid of certain facilities that other women are availing in many countries across the world. UAE claims to be a country with international standards and supporting the idea of women empowerment, however, the maternity policy of the country indicates a different picture. In a country where family values are so strong, 45 days of maternity leave is possibly not enough for working mothers during the most significant phase of their lives. Childbirth, post-delivery health gain and nursing of the infant certainly need much more time than the entitled period of maternity leave. The present study reveals that the existing maternity leave rights in the UAE cause a lot of concern among the women employees due to their insufficiency in maintaining an adequate balance between the work and family life. Inadequate maternity leave, combined with a shortage of part-time jobs is responsible for keeping qualified women out of work in the UAE. Women’s rights are recognised in UAE, but not enjoyed by them in genuineness. Simply talking about women’s importance in the workforce is not enough, they should also be presented a more convenient and stress-free environment at the workplace.

Introduction

Women constitute a major part of the labour force market in different fields in the UAE. This development is not only the result of the higher number of women enrolments in education but also due to the changing social attitudes towards working women in the UAE. Moreover, employment is increasingly becoming a way of forming individual and professional identity for women rather than being a source of income only (Women in the United Arab Emirates: A portrait of Progress, n.d.).

Men and women enjoy the same social status as per the constitution of the UAE. Islam, too, bestows equal privileges to both the genders for social righteousness It is mentioned in the constitution of the UAE that,

“The family is the basis of society, which shall be responsible for protecting childhood and motherhood. Laws shall be formulated in all fields to observe this protection and care, in a way which safeguards the dignity of women, preserves their identity and secures for them the conditions appropriate for a prosperous life and suitable work which is following their nature and capabilities as mothers and wives and as workers” (Al Abed et al, 2006, p. 238-239).

These guarantees have been acknowledged in the implementation of the legislation, for example, the Labour Law offers equal status to men and women regarding work and pay (Al Abed et al, 2006).

Despite being a significant part of the workforce, women in the UAE are devoid of certain facilities that their counterparts are enjoying in many countries across the world. They are not offered sufficient time off after childbirth to adjust with their new responsibility of a mother and a working woman. That makes their life more stressful, often forcing them to leave their jobs. There are clear guidelines of the International Labour Organisation that expectant and nursing mothers should be provided sufficient time to regain their health after delivery and look after their newborn babies during the initial crucial months (Baker & Al Mulla, 2012).

In UAE, women are entitled to maternity leaves with full pay for 45 days in private sectors and 60 days in the public sectors if they have served for one year or more continuously. They may avail this facility before or after the delivery. If the service period is less than 1 year, they would get half-pay during the period of maternity leave. The working women in the UAE have the right to avail a hundred days extended leave on the completion of their maternity leave if they are not physically fit. However, they will not be paid for this duration. If a woman employee wants to extend her maternity leave in continuation due to illness, she has to present a medical certificate from an authorized physician confirming her incapability to resume work. For nursing mothers, there is a provision of two daily intervals of half an hour each during the 18 months after delivery for breastfeeding their newborn children (UAE Labour Law, n.d.).

The religion in UAE encourages women to breastfeed their babies until they reach the age of 2. “In the UAE, a Muslim country that adheres to international standards, it is necessary to accommodate adequate allowances to breastfeeding mothers, especially as women are encouraged under their religion to breastfeed their children up to two years” (Baker & Al Mulla para18).

There are certain employment rights and responsibilities in European countries, such as the UK, where the women employees get encouragement to continue their work post-maternity leave. These statutory rights help women employees to resume their work without any hassles and complications. In the UK, employees have the right to resume the same work they were doing before going on maternity leave, if they return to work after the first 26 weeks of the Statutory Maternity Leave. However, they are eligible for availing this facility on resuming work even after the Additional Maternity Leave of the later 26 weeks, but in case of the unavailability of the same job, the employee can be offered the alternative work with the same term and conditions as before going on leave (Statutory Maternity Leave: Returning to work, 2014).

As per the records of the United Nations, the UAE is among those nations in the world that do not provide appropriate maternity allowance. In a country where family values are so strong, 45 days of maternity leave is possibly not enough for working mothers during the most significant phase of their lives. Childbirth, post-delivery health gain and nursing of the infant require much more time than the entitled period of maternity leave. According to a UN report, only 85 countries stick to the international standards for maternity leave. UAE claims to be a country with international standards and supporting the idea of women empowerment, however, the maternity policy of the country indicates a different picture (Baker & Al Mulla, 2012).

Research Question

The following research aims to answer the following question:

  • Is the inadequate length of maternity leave law, in the UAE, compelling women to leave their jobs?
  • Can the situation improve with the introduction of some improvement measures in the maternity policy of UAE?

Research Objectives

Women, in the UAE, are forced to leave their jobs after they become mothers due to the insufficient length of maternity laws. The duration is very low in comparison to other developed countries especially, the UK. Women constitute a major part of the labour force market in different fields in the UAE. The objectives of this research work are to:

  • monitor the mother’s employment behaviour in the UAE
  • the impact of the UAE maternity policies on the women employees’ rate of resuming work after childbirth
  • observe the impact of the maternity law on the personal and professional attitude of the new mothers
  • study the attitude of employees with relation to the improvements in maternity policy

Literature Review

The existing maternity and paternity leave rights in the UAE cause a lot of concern among the employees due to their insufficiency to maintain an adequate balance between the work and family life. Women employees in the UAE have always complained of the insufficient number of maternity leaves they receive following the government maternity policy. The short period of 45 days in private sectors and 60 days in the public sectors is inadequate for making appropriate arrangements for establishing a balance between stable work life and a hale and hearty and contented family life. The Ministry of Labour and many prominent Human Resource professionals are now showing concern over this issue. The reason behind this concern could be that the Ministry of Labour has acknowledged the importance of highly qualified and experienced women employees, whether ex-pats or UAE nationals, at workplaces. These women are compelled to consider some other favourable work options before planning their families or to leave the job due to the insufficient time provided as maternity leave. Losing expert ex-pats and the equally competent and skilled UAE women in the public sector may have an unfavourable impact on the development and economy of the country.

Besides this, the time provided to nursing mothers to breastfeed their babies and return to work within 30 minutes is also impractical and unfeasible.

Expert Human resources had brought this issue in the limelight that the flaw in the maternity leave policy was causing the withdrawal of female workers from their work in 2011. Owing to the insufficient maternity leaves and the discrimination against women employees due to the maternity policy, the UAE had a very low ratio of female to male employees. The selection of women employees depended upon their views on marriage and family and children. International norms do not approve of so less time provided as maternity leave as it does not allow women to stick to their careers and promote it further. While comparing maternity benefits with the other developed countries such as the UK, we can realize the need for immediate changes in the maternity policy of the UAE (Maternity and Paternity Leave in the UAE, 2015).

Low participation of women workforce leaves a significant impact on the economy of a country as they are a valuable human resource. It is important to understand the vital role that the UAE women play in the development of the organizations to deal with the problem of their low representation in the workforce. McKinsey and Company (2010) studied the importance of women workforce at the global level and the difference created by them in the performance of the organisations. It was revealed that the financial performance of organisations is affected by gender diversity in their workforce. It was also revealed that women at senior ranks positively impact the financial yields of the companies. Lorraine Charles who is staying in the region for almost a decade and serving as a lecturer and researcher in Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi (2014) has studied various Middle Eastern issues and acquired extensive experience in the field. According to her, many reasons cause hindrance to them in pursuing a full-time career and returning to work after having children. Based on circumstantial evidence related to women participation in the workforce, it is clear that many young women are likely to get married and look after their families instead of opting to be working women. According to a study conducted by the Oxford Strategic Consulting and HSBC claims that family responsibility and husband’s opinion is a major factor behind women’s under-representation in the labour force Scott-Jackson, 2010 as cited in Charles, 2014, p.50).

It is challenging to maintain a balance between work and family life after the childbirth. In the developed countries like the UK, employers should consider requests for flexible working from all parents having children below the age of 17 (Chanfreau et al, 2011).

Great Britain has witnessed a steady leap in the number of maternal employment in the past few decades. The social and employment policies mainly since the late 1990s have strengthened this growth. The decisions related to work and childcare is determined by various factors such as parents’ views towards parenting, placing of work, different requirement of children at different stages of the life cycle, availability of the suitable childcare, and availability of family-friendly work.

Hence, parents’ outlook, their anticipations and circumstances play a vital role in determining the degree of maternal employment in a particular society. Countries like Great Britain have taken all possible measures to provide greater convenience to the parents in terms of choice and flexibility so that they can maintain a balance between their professions and family life. Policies have been introduced covering maternity and paternity leaves along with the rights of pay. There are other policies to support parents with flexible work hours and childcare coupons. The major changes took place with the introduction of the Work and Family Acts 2006 which entitled the women to have a 1-year maternity leave (Chanfreau et al, 2011).

This is shocking that the US is the only developed nation that does not provide paid maternity leave to the women workers. There is no provision of parental leave for the employees.

“There is a law, Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which is made for full time employees who work with the companies that have at least 50 employees and in such condition this law provides 12 week leave without pay” (Suddath, 2015, Para 4).

It is a shock for women who are living in the most powerful country in the world.

“The United Nation’s International Labour Organization reveals that only two countries in the world, which are Papua New Guinea and the U.S., do not provide their working women with any kind of paid leave” (Suddath, 2015, Para 7).

However, some states like California, New Jersey and Rhode Island have started paying the new mothers on leave under the disability insurance programme (Suddath, 2015). According to experts, the newborn must remain in direct contact with the mother for a longer period. Leaving an infant too early can harm the bond between the mother and the child. Short maternity leave may compel mothers to choose between livelihoods and motherhood. Further, on returning to work, the ex-pat mothers face the problem of unavailability of suitable nursery for their infants (Longer maternity leave is welcome in the UAE, 2013).

Chanfreau et al (2011) surveyed the maternity and paternity rights and women returners in the UK and found the nature of the pre-birth employment was a decisive factor in post-birth working decisions. Women working in the public sector and large private firms were more likely to resume work after childbirth. The reason behind it could be the convenience of family-friendly provisions. The relation between maternity pay and mothers’ return to work was also visible in the survey results. Mothers receiving maternity pay were more likely to resume work. There were incidences of biased treatment at work such as unsuitable workloads and offensive comments from the employer or other co-workers. The survey also revealed that the return rates of mother workers were also influenced by opportunities and limitations both.

Other constraints include non-gender-segregated working places, limited professions having ‘female only’ environment, prohibitive work environment for females, different working conditions in public and private sectors that work as a hindrance in women employment especially in the private sector. According to Al Makahleh (2012), “Only 5 % of the Emirati women work in the private sector, while 66% work in the public sector”(As cited in Charles, 2014, p.50). A large number of women employees prefer not to resume work after the birth of a baby as they do not get sufficient maternity leave post-delivery. Moreover, there is no adequate provision for infant and child care facilities that may make it easier for them to return to work (Charles, 2014).

The reasons that hinder the progress of women in Emirates are often discussed. A participant at the recent Government Summit in Dubai, Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi says that the major impediment working women are facing in the UAE is the duration of maternity leave. Women are struggling with the unreasonable expectations forced on them by society. On the one hand, there is wide social acceptance for women to join the workforce and seek professional success, but on the other, there is also the expectation that they need to be super-efficient home makers” (Al Qasimi, 2015, Para 2). A Lebanese employee, Laudy Charabaty, recalls the emotional trauma she went through when she resumed work after one and half months after the birth of her son. She says, “It felt like we were separated but I had to get used to it quickly. I either had to stop my job, or accept it” (Webster, 2015, Para10).

Comparing the situation with her country, a British expectant expatriate mother feels that the maternity laws in UAE create a difficult situation for the new mothers, ” As a British ex-pat, if I was back home, I would have had six months to a year off, so 45 days is quite poor in comparison. Fortunately, my employers are a bit better and give me longer” (Broomhall, 2011, Para12).

Ayesha Abdullah who has four children and works as the managing director of the sciences cluster in Tecom Business Park feels that 45 days are not enough for the mothers to resume work. She says, “A lot of career-oriented women are foregoing motherhood because there isn’t the flexibility. If you take time off work, you lose your position. Women tend to be grateful when companies give them a break” (Broomhall, 2011, Para10).

In a survey conducted by the Dubai Women’s Establishment on 1,186 women working in different government departments of Dubai and having children below the age of four, it was found that a major number of families depended on nannies for the care of their children. 32 per cent of the children were looked after by the extended families and 5 per cent were sent to the nurseries. The situation was more miserable with the ex-pats where 90 per cent of the children were sent to nurseries. A study related to the postnatal recovery of mothers conducted by Dr Julie Wray from Salford University revealed that women require almost a year time to get over child-birth (Paxman, 2012). Head of Education and Research at the Royal College of Midwives, Sue MacDonald supported the research. According to her, “The physical recovery is, of course, one side of the story. Women also need to make the psychological transition to being a mother- which is even tougher for those who were working before giving birth” (Paxman, 2012, Para14).

In the UAE and BRIC countries, motherhood brings noticeable bias for women at the workplace. Their obligation and potential are examined strictly and constantly. Women candidates, in the UAE, may be asked about their marital and family status during their job interviews (Hewlett & Rashid, 2011).

According to the Dubai Women Establishment (DWE) polls conducted in 2012 through various social websites in UAE, 62.5% of the women stressed that maintaining a balance between work and life is a difficult task and makes women reluctant to join and stay in the employment (Emirati Women Perspective on Work and Political Participation, 2013).

In the UAE, women cannot be pregnant while taking up a job in the government schools. It is so because the government doesn’t want to go through the hassle of finding a replacement in a short period. A newly appointed teacher can be terminated if she is found to be pregnant (Chilton, 2005).

The Ministry of Education and Youth (MoEY) prohibited pregnant teachers from joining schools claiming that it was for the benefit of students. The Ministry, however, agreed to reconsider the decision in case the teacher assured in writing for going on not more than 2 months of maternity leave (Rashid, 2004).

However, the law prohibits employers to terminate or threaten female employers on the grounds of pregnancy, delivery or parenting (Women in the UAE, 2015). Inadequate maternity leave, combined with a shortage of part-time jobs is responsible for keeping qualified women out of work says a 33-year-old German ex-pat, Maja Borchers. She feels that the rules are not suitable for working mothers in the UAE (Mcqueen, 2009).

Hypotheses

  • Inadequate maternity leave, combined with a shortage of part-time jobs is responsible for keeping qualified women out of work in the UAE.
  • It is important to understand the vital role that the UAE women play in the development of the organizations to deal with the problem of their low representation in the workforce.

Research Model

This will provide an overview of the methodology and the data collection tools used in surveying maternity laws of UAE that drive women out of work.

The presented research is a qualitative as well as quantitative analysis of the effectiveness and descriptive survey design to investigate if women are compelled to leave their jobs after they become mothers since maternity laws of UAE have the shortest proviso for maternity leave in comparison to other countries especially, UK and USA. This survey tries to find out whether the women employees in the UAE are happy with the current maternity laws of the country or they want any changes in the laws. The findings aim to provide a detailed analysis of the data from a given population, locals as well as ex-pats, to determine the issue related to maternity laws of UAE.

According to Dawson (2009), it is must to know the difference between qualitative and quantitative methods before research methodology starts (Research Methodology: An Introduction, n.d.).

Qualitative research involves subjective data. Dawson (2009) mentions that qualitative research focuses on behaviour, attitudes and experiences through methods like interviews. Since attitudes, behaviour and experiences are very important so this kind of research tries to get the in-depth feeling and opinion from the people who participate in the survey (Research Methodology: An Introduction, n.d.).

Quantitative research is a pragmatic approach used for research purposes. The quantified data is captured here. It involves objective data. The data collected through questionnaires or interviews is large. Dawson (2009) states that quantitative research aims to target more people and connecting with people is much quicker than it happens in qualitative research. Both the researches need skilful, trained and experienced researchers.

According to Veal (2005), following are some traits of a qualitative approach (Research Methodology: An Introduction, n.d.):

  • This method aims that the researcher understands the personal experiences of the participant in-depth.
  • It mainly aims for people’s understanding instead of focusing on external causes.
  • It helps the researcher to understand the research issues form the point of view of the participants.
  • It examines personal changes happened in a period.
  • It focuses on human-interest issues

Research Methodology

This part of the research deals with the research methodology that was employed in conducting the study. It, therefore, covers the research locale, research design, target population, sample selection, research instruments, conducting, reliability of research instruments, the validity of the research instruments, data collection procedures, data analysis, and reporting.

The research methodology that was used in the study is the combination of a qualitative as well as a quantitative research method. By using this methodology, the hypotheses of the research questions can be measured, determined, and analyzed. The method also helped in determining the quantity and consistency of results. The method contributed to determining the satisfaction level of the UAE women employees with the country’s maternity laws.

The method used is a descriptive representation of the phenomenon and collect quantifiable data that can be statistically verified and analyzed to measure the effectiveness of the whole research.

Hence, qualitative research technique was used as it was concerned with the quality or kind. This research technique uses in-depth interviews for exploring a better view of the situation. It also intends to know about the understanding of people relating to a particular subject or institution (Research Methodology: An Introduction, n.d.).

Moreover, the survey provided important statistical quantitative data to complement and confirm the findings presented by qualitative data.

Qualitative research is done to improve quality and is often considered as ‘Motivational Research’. It also focuses on people’s opinion about particular subjects or institutions (Research Methodology: An Introduction, n.d.).

The statistical survey provides standardized information about the research subject. It is a well-organized way to gather information regarding the understanding of a subject by a large number of respondents. For this study, the Likert scale is used for building the questionnaire in this paper. Likert scale is used to construct questionnaires to get psychometric replies from the people. It aims at obtaining the degree of agreement or knowing the preferences of the respondents. These scales do not use comparative techniques, but rather evaluate a single feature. The level of agreement has to be shown with the statements on an ordinal scale (Bertram, n.d.).

The Likert Scale is easy to use the system in the surveys. It can be in the form of self- completion questionnaires or can be given as a self-completion part of the survey, administered by an interviewer (Brace, 2008). In this system, participants are asked to show their degree of agreement with the given statement. Likert scale system uses a five-point scale system where the respondents have to pick any one option from the given five points. Before the final distribution of the questionnaire, test research was carried out. For this purpose, 10 copies of the questionnaire were sent randomly through email to some women employees. The pilot study aimed to make sure that the questionnaire is easy to understand to the participants. Then the questionnaire was sent to the sample selected for the research.

The design is best suited for this study. The rationale behind the choice of the design is that it studies individuals or objects as whole units and not in parts. The purpose of the study is to find out not only the satisfaction level of UAE national employee women with maternity laws of the country but also the satisfaction level of ex-pat employee women of the country with the maternity laws. The quantitative research methodology is used because data (perceived effectiveness) being tested in this study was through various sources which support it. The study is guided by the actual data collected from the respondents, and the purpose of the study is to analyze them. Such worldview requires the analysis of the strength of the facts and comments.

This worldview entails a systematic procedure and structure in the research process because it follows a rule-bound approach, which meant that this worldview made use of surveys, content analyses, field experiments, and other assessments that will collect verifiable data (Philimore& Goodson, 2004). The worldview also entails the focus on data that will reveal trends, patterns, and statistical relationships. A quantitative research methodology will also be used because the method will utilize open-ended questions as well as close questions; pre-determined approaches, and numeric data (Creswell, 2003).

According to Ross (1999), the quantitative method is more frequently associated with using surveys, which entails studying a large number of subjects that are drawn from a specific population. The research design for this study will employ the use of survey questionnaires and analyzing data gathered from the respondents.

The study involved the use of questionnaires. These were prepared in advance, and the questions were reviewed to find their relevancy in the concept being investigated. The language used in the questionnaires was relatively moderate to be understood by the people and the procedure was understood. There were some short answers type questions too where the participants had to choose just one answer out of five options.

Population and Sampling Procedure

The population of interest for this study is 100 working mothers with different organisations. A large no of participants is used in the sample. Since this is a descriptive design, sampling is a significant process because of the need to obtain an accurate representation of the population (Heck, 2004).

Instrumentation

Survey questionnaires were used as the research instrument. The survey was conducted in three ways- a face to face interview, a telephonic interview and through emails. In a face to face interview, all the participants were provided with survey questionnaires to determine their perceived level of explaining their views on UAE maternity laws and their suggestions for any change in the law. The survey instrument was based on the general type of questions related to their understanding of UAE maternity laws. There were two types of questions open-ended and closed targeting different groups from different organizations.

In a telephonic interview, a similar survey questionnaire was used. Normally telephonic interviews are avoided in the qualitative research as the reliability of data seems not to be very authentic. Also, there is much probing required. Though the respondents feel comfortable through a telephonic interview yet, it is perceived that the quality of the data will not be very good (Novick, 2011).

The questionnaires were prepared to recognize the different levels of understanding the issue by the women employees of different organizations.

Reliability

The data collection method that was used needed to be clearly defined and described; in terms of how to instrument has been tested and validated by past studies (Sunderman et al., 2004). The strategy for obtaining good measures for the study involves upholding the relevance and appropriateness of the study for the data collected and the purpose of the study. Thus, the instrument section clearly defined the processes for this method, which will enable future researchers to duplicate the study.

To uphold the reliability of this study, the participants were selected according to their various types of nationalities. The questionnaires targeted women from different organizations as per the setting of their questions.

Data Collection Procedures

This dissertation captured both primary and secondary data to get proper answers to the research questions. For this study in-depth interview was chosen as the data collection method. The questionnaire was used for an in-depth interview. The survey took place at the participants’ workplace so they could feel relaxed and comfortable and could answer the questions with their full thoughts, experiences and feelings. According to Kinnear and Taylor (1979), “In-depth interviews may be defined as an unstructured personal interview which uses extensive probing to get a single respondent to talk freely and to express detailed beliefs and feelings on a topic with little directional influence from the researcher” (as cited in Research Methodology: An Introduction, n.d.).

Following is the distribution of the respondents by work type and sector type:

Table 1: Distribution by work type

Sales/ Customer Service 30%
Clerical/ administrative 40%
Professional 20%
Managerial 10%

Table 2: Distribution by sector

Legal 10%
Construction, Property 10%
Leisure and Tourism 10%
Media and Publishing 10%
Technology 10%
Local and Central government 10%
Banking and Finance 10%
Education 15%
Health 15%

Each participant was asked 7 open-ended and 5 close-ended questions. Every question was explained by the researcher to make sure that the respondent understood the question and was comfortable to answer. This survey lasted for half an hour.

Data which is collected from direct experience is called primary data. First, the researcher gets some insight into the issue by collecting secondary data then primary research is conducted. This process involves many forms such as questionnaires, direct observation and telephonic interviews. A published data which is collected by others is called secondary data. Secondary data is time-saving which one could spend while collecting data. It gives bigger and better data. If any researcher could try to collect on their own, it could be expensive for him.

The main advantage of using secondary data is that it is obvious that background work like literature reviews, any case studies etc have already been done. Uses of texts and other statistics have been done and personal contacts have been consumed. On the other hand, there are some drawbacks to the fact that the researcher is not able to check the data face-to-face so it is difficult to check the reliability of the data.

It was planned how to reach the people for collecting data. The locale of the study was conducted in various UAE organisations based in cities like Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Ajman etc. The choice of location was based on how accessible the organisations were to the researcher based on Singleton’s (1993) argument that the ideal setting for any study should be easily accessible to the researcher (Research Methodology: An Introduction, n.d.).

The target groups for this research were the women employees working with different organisations. A sample that is fully representative of the attitude and views of working women was selected. It involves selecting individuals or objects from a population or a group for the study. The main research instruments to be used in this study were questionnaires.

After making the survey questionnaire, some women were approached directly but some women of any particular companies were approached through their organizations’ administration department which would receive the questionnaire.

The test-retest method was used when one organization was selected. Printed copies of the questionnaire were distributed later. The respondents were given the questionnaire, which they had to give back after filling them properly. The participants were given sufficient time to complete the questionnaire. After one week, the same questionnaire was given to the group for scoring.

Ethic Issues

The qualitative research has a different ethical problem in comparison to quantitative research. The ethical conflict occurs in connection to how a researcher approaches a community group and what kind of effect she may have on the participants. The main focal point of qualitative research is to define, explore and examine people their likely atmosphere.

Respondents were made aware of the purpose of the study, the researcher agreed not to reveal the identities of the participants and not to disclose their personal information for ethical reasons. All the respondents were made sure that their views on any questions would be kept confidential. This was to win their trust so the quality of data could be good. A particular time frame of the survey was decided and it was determined that interview time would not exceed from the set time and the respondents would not be stressed except they wanted time for answering questions.

Primary Research Findings

This dissertation presents the finding of primary research. The primary research was conducted by making questionnaires and those questionnaires were distributed among 100 participants. The participants were divided into different groups. This division was based according to their nationality- locals and ex-pats. The survey was conducted among 30 people through their administrative department and also by sending them emails. Rest other people were interviewed through telephone and personally. Each participant was explained clearly every question.

The results of the interview are shown below:

While asking about UAE maternity laws, some of the respondents mentioned that the UAE provides the lowest maternity leave allowance in the world. In a country where family values are so strong, 45 days of maternity leave is possibly not enough for working mothers during the most significant phase of their lives. A few mothers said that childbirth, post-delivery health gain and nursing of the infant require much more time than the entitled period of maternity leave. They further mentioned that UAE claims to be a country with international standards and supporting the idea of women empowerment, however, the maternity policy of the country indicates a different picture. The short period of 45 days in private sectors and 60 days in the public sectors is inadequate for making appropriate arrangements for establishing a balance between stable work life and a hale and hearty and contented family life. Comparing the laws of UAE with other countries some of the working mothers, who were ex-pats, said that women in the UAE are not offered sufficient time off after childbirth to adjust with their new responsibility of a mother and a working woman. That makes their life more stressful, often forcing them to leave their jobs. Countries like Great Britain have taken all possible measures to provide greater convenience to the parents in terms of choice and flexibility so that they can maintain a balance between their professions and family life. Policies have been introduced covering maternity and paternity leaves along with the rights of pay. There are other policies to support parents with flexible work hours.

When asking about the reasons for returning to work, 20% of the UAE women, who were all locals, responded that they wanted to keep their brain alive that is why they returned to work. 40% of the women locals, as well as ex-pats, responded that they believed in vocation. 25% of the women said that they felt valued as a working woman.15% of the women responded that due to the financial problem they returned to work.

When asking about their concerns while returning to work after their maternity leave, almost 50% of the women, locals as well as ex-pats, admitted that leaving an infant too early was their main concern since it could harm the bond between the mother and the child. Short maternity leave may compel mothers to choose between livelihoods and motherhood. Further, on returning to work, the ex-pat mothers face the problem of unavailability of suitable nursery for their infants. 30% were concerned about the ability to continue breastfeeding. 10% were concerned with the attitude of the boss and other employees. 5% were concerned with job availability. 5% were concerned with the loss of social life.

In response to the question about their relationship with their boss after their maternity leave, almost 40% mother felt their relationship with their boss already spoiled since they became pregnant. 30% of them said that their relationship with their boss declined when they announced their pregnancy. 30% of them said that after returning to work they felt their boss’s behaviour changed and started declining. The women further mentioned that employers and society should support them in maintaining a balance between their career and family. The attitude of employers towards new mothers needs to be more sensitive and encouraging.

In response to the question about managing the breastfeeding and their work, the women mentioned that the religion in UAE encourages women to breastfeed their babies until they reach the age of 2 but only 30% were able to provide their infant with breast milk. 40% of working mothers were giving their infants’ mixed milk and 30% of women were giving their infants formula milk.

When asking if UAE maternity laws drive women to leave the job some of the respondents mentioned that the women are compelled to consider some other favourable work options before planning their families or to leave the job due to the insufficient time provided as maternity leave. Losing expert ex-pats and the equally competent and skilled UAE women in the public sector may have an unfavourable impact on the development and economy of the country. Besides this, the time provided to nursing mothers to breastfeed their babies and return to work within half an hour is also unrealistic and out of the question.

Some of the women were aware of the news that It was brought in the limelight that the flaw in the maternity leave policy was causing the withdrawal of female workers from their work. Owing to the insufficient maternity leaves and the discrimination against women employees due to the maternity policy, the UAE had a very low ratio of female to male employees.

Some of the working mothers mentioned that many reasons cause hindrance to women in pursuing a full-time career and returning to work after having children. They further mentioned that based on circumstantial evidence related to women participation in the workforce, it is clear that many young women are likely to get married and look after their families instead of opting to be working women. It is challenging to maintain a balance between work and family life after the childbirth.

Some working women stated straight that the major obstruction working women are facing in the UAE is the duration of maternity leave. Women are struggling with the unreasonable expectations forced on them by society. On the one hand, there is wide social acceptance for women to join the workforce and seek professional success, but on the other, there is also the expectation that they need to be perfect home makers.

While asking if UAE working women play a major role in the financial development of their organizations, some of the working women responded that the low participation of women workforce leaves a significant impact on the economy of a country as they are the valuable human resource. They further mentioned that It is important to understand the vital role that the UAE women play in the development of the organizations and deal with the problem of their low representation in the workforce. Some mentioned stated that the importance of women workforce at the global level and the difference created by them in the performance of the organizations cannot be avoided. It was also revealed by some of them that the women at senior ranks positively impact the financial yields of the companies.

The data taken on a Likert scale is elaborated below:

The data taken on a Likert scale
The data taken on a Likert scale

The above-mentioned data shows that 50 per cent of the working women got strongly agreed that there should be some modifications in UAE maternity laws. Greater convenience to the parents should be provided in terms of choice and flexibility so that they can maintain a balance between their professions and family life. Policies covering maternity and paternity leaves along with the rights of pay should be introduced. Other policies to support parents with flexible work hours should be placed.

30 per cent of the working mothers got agreed that they were facing motherhood challenges. They had to leave their small kids either in the supervision of nannies ort they had to send their children to the nurseries. 15 per cent of the mothers felt that the atmosphere at their office drastically changed after they became mothers. The attitude of their boss towards them was not very sensitive and encouraging.

5 per cent of the mothers got agreed that it was very difficult for them to get adjusted to working after maternity leave.

Discussion

UAE declares to be a country with international standards and sustaining the idea of women empowerment, however, the maternity policy of the country indicates an opposed image. Inadequate maternity leave, combined with a shortage of part-time jobs is responsible for keeping qualified women out of work says a 33-year-old German ex-pat, Maja Borchers. She feels that the rules are not suitable for working mothers in the UAE (Mcqueen, 2009, Para 6).

Childbirth, post-delivery health gain and nursing of the infant certainly need much more time than the entitled period of maternity leave but in UAE, in private sectors, women are allowed only 45 days maternity leave. Whereas, in the public sectors only 60 days maternity leave is allowed without any payment deduction. This is the reason that women, in the UAE are forced to leave their jobs after they become mothers due to the insufficient length of maternity laws.

The survey also revealed the dissatisfaction of working mothers with the country’s maternity laws. These women want the law to be changed with the extension of more maternity leaves so they are not forced to leave their jobs. When we compare maternity benefits with the other developed countries such as the UK, we can become conscious of the need for instantaneous changes in the maternity policy of the UAE.

Recommendations

Measures are required to help the women employees to hold their jobs post-childbirth as they are a vital part of a sustainable economy. Improvement in the Labour Law relative to maternity leave would improve chances for them to keep their employment even after having children. With the introduction of adequate employment benefits for expectant and nursing mothers, equal treatment can be offered at work (Sadek, 2012, Para 1-3).

The demand raised by UAE women for longer maternity leave or flexible hours of working is quite genuine and needs to be considered without any presumptions. Considering these problems may help women with choosing between their careers and family after having a child. On returning to work, this will also help in ending their struggle with the differing demands of their family and career.

The working mothers must be supported with adequate legal support to continue their careers without any hassles. Moreover, their employers and society should also support them in maintaining a balance between their career and family. In a study conducted by the Dubai Women Establishment about the duration of maternity leave in 39 countries of the world, UAE ranked very low (31 ranks).

“Dubai Women Establishment in 2009 proposed to the Federal Authority for Government Human resources to cover the issue of maternity leave and nursing mothers, however, there was no response from the government regarding the proposal” (Longer maternity leave is welcome in the UAE,2013, Para 1).

Such policies need to be considered by the government that makes the women entitled for longer maternity leave and give them the right to make longer the period of absence without pay. The attitude of the employers towards new mothers needs to be more sensitive and encouraging (Longer maternity leave is welcome in the UAE, 2013). MediaCom, a big company in Dubai has decided to increase the maternity leave from 45 days to six months. Out of a total of 120 employees across the Mena region, 49 are women. If the maternity leave is increased to six months, it may affect the financial system of a company. However, employers believe that it is more important to create a happier environment for mothers at the workplace and provide a healthier and pleasant life to the babies. Employees of the organization are happy with the change (Webster, 2015). This move by MediaCom is a significant move towards the improved condition of working mothers in the region (Webster, 2015).

The DIFC ( Dubai International Financial Centre) has introduced some changes to its maternity policy that state that “ maternity leave for the employees in the DIFC Free zone has been amended from three calendar months to 65 working days (excluding weekends)” ( Kapur, 2013, Para 6).

It is highly required from the government in the UAE to look into the matter sincerely and make provisions for the adequate and flexible nursing period given the benefit of the mothers and the employers both.

Women’s rights are recognised in the UAE, but not enjoyed by them in reality. Simply talking about women’s importance in the workforce is not sufficient, they should also be offered a more convenient and stress-free environment at the workplace (Al Qasimi, 2015).

Major General Dr Naseer Lakhrebani Al Nuaimi, who is the Secretary-General to the Deputy Prime Minister’s, has discussed the advantages of escalated maternity leave. This is mentioned in his recently submitted thesis at the London Metropolitan University. He says, “More leave would have a positive long-term outcome that outweighs any short-term economic burdens” (Mums in UAE should get longer maternity leave, says Secretary-General, 2014, Para 2).

He has also discussed the effect of maternity leave on the development of a child. He says there is “no love deeper, more true and complete than that of a mother” (Mums in UAE should get longer maternity leave, says Secretary-General, 2014).

Conclusion

The flaw in the maternity leave policy is causing the withdrawal of female workers from their work. Owing to the insufficient maternity leaves and the discrimination against women employees due to the maternity policy, the UAE has a very low ratio of female to male employees. Women’s rights are recognised in the UAE, but not enjoyed by them in reality. Inadequate maternity leave, combined with a shortage of part-time jobs is responsible for keeping qualified women out of work. Simply talking about women’s importance in the workforce is not sufficient, they should also be offered a more convenient and stress-free environment at the workplace. It is highly required from the government in the UAE to look into the matter sincerely and make provisions for the adequate and flexible nursing period given the benefit of the mothers and the employers both. The attitude of employers towards new mothers needs to be more sensitive and encouraging. Women are struggling with the unreasonable expectations forced on them by society. On the one hand, there is wide social acceptance for women to join the workforce and seek professional success, but on the other, there is also the expectation that they need to be perfect home makers. Such policies need to be considered by the government that makes the women entitled for longer maternity leave and the right to extend the period of absence without pay so that they get sufficient time to relax and recover to take up the dual responsibility of a mother and a working woman.

References

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Appendices

Questionnaire

Type A: Open-Ended Questions

  1. What do you think about UAE maternity laws?
  2. What are the reasons for returning to work?
  3. While returning to work after your maternity leave, what are the concerns do you have in your mind?
  4. How do you find your relationship with your boss after your maternity leave?
  5. How do you manage to breastfeed and working?
  6. Do you think that UAE maternity laws drive women to leave the job?
  7. Do you feel that UAE working women play a major role in the financial development of their organizations?

Type B: Tick only one option

Questions Strongly
agree
Agree Somewhat
agree
Disagree Strongly disagree
The maternity laws in the UAE should be modified.
The challenges increase with motherhood.
The culture of friendliness at work changes.
At the end of the maternity leave, when resuming work, the mother’s health can be ignored.
It is easy to adjust to working after maternity leave.
The data taken on a Likert scale
The data taken on a Likert scale
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IvyPanda. (2020, July 3). The UAE Maternity Law and Women’s Employment Behaviour. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-uae-maternity-law-and-womens-employment-behaviour/

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IvyPanda. "The UAE Maternity Law and Women’s Employment Behaviour." July 3, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-uae-maternity-law-and-womens-employment-behaviour/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "The UAE Maternity Law and Women’s Employment Behaviour." July 3, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-uae-maternity-law-and-womens-employment-behaviour/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'The UAE Maternity Law and Women’s Employment Behaviour'. 3 July.

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