01 October 2019

Maternity leave legislation in support of breastfeeding

Over the past 100 years, most countries have introduced maternity legislation and related policies in line with ILO standards, but the level of implementation and actual coverage varies considerably between and within countries. The centenary provides a valuable opportunity to strengthen ratification and implementation efforts, as well as to extend coverage in order to reach out to those workers that remain uncovered. The country case studies demonstrated that: Legal frameworks and policies are necessary as they extend rights and are important drivers of gender equality; Low coverage of the law is a persistent barrier, In the absence of paid maternity leave, informal coping strategies are often employed, particularly in employment contexts beyond the radar of legal requirements;  Neither statutory nor informal supports alone are sufficient - advocacy efforts should thus focus on strengthening legal frameworks (policies) as well as supportive practices; And advocacy efforts to implement ILO standards on maternity protection need to be context-sensitive to take into account contextual differences between and within countries; Maternity protection is a shared responsibility. There is thus a need for multiple stakeholders, including international organizations, government ministries, employers' and workers' organizations, the health sector, NGOs and community leaders, to work collectively to achieve more comprehensive and adequate maternity leave coverage.