Women’s organisations anxious about maternity leave

Women’s organisations have welcomed measures undertaken in Budget 2012 that see a working mother take advantages of tax credit schemes and increase in the maternity leave.

Malta Confederation of Women's Organisation Chairperson Renee Laiviera said that women should not be penalised for having children
Malta Confederation of Women's Organisation Chairperson Renee Laiviera said that women should not be penalised for having children

But despite the two-week extension to the maternity leave as promised by government in its budget, the issue still has to be discussed with the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development.

So far, no agreement on the measures to implement the extension has been reached with the MCESD, even though government will be forking out a weekly rate of €160 for the extension.

“We are disappointed that government and trade unions did not manage to come to an agreement on how the measures should be implemented,” Grace Attard, President of the National Council for Women, said.

However, she added that by at least going public with it, the Finance Minister appears to be committed to address the issue. NCW is however aiming for the 20-week maternity leave, as proposed by the European Commission.

Currently, the maternity leave is at 14 weeks, which will increase to 16 weeks next year and reach 18 weeks in 2013.

The NCW also proposed that the Employment and Training Corporation comes up with schemes where employers would be given a temporary placement for women on maternity leave.

“This could also be reached by making use of the European Social Fund,” Attard said.

Overall, the NCW said it was pleased with the budget: “It reaches the family and the different members of the family, including the elderly.”

Attard welcomed the increase in children’s allowance and the new possibility for a parent to benefit from tax credit. She also voiced approval over the number of incentives for small and medium sized enterprises.

“A substantial amount of working women are themselves employers in SMEs. The schemes introduced in this budget not only see government helping in the sharing of startups and taxation but is also insisting the small companies in their development.”

Malta Confederation of Women’s Organisation Chairperson Renée Laiviera was more cautious on the budget.

“There are some good measures that are being proposed. However, we need to look at the funds that are being allocated and those who are in real need are targeted for assistance and support,” Laiviera said.

She questioned how government is going to increase its income form taxation: “Is this going to be by making non-payers more accountable in getting their bills settled, or is this going to mean new taxes? And for whom, and with what effect?”

Laiviera commented how nothing was said on the management of government infrastructural projects that “definitely need to be seriously looked into in order to ensure that taxpayers’ money is well spent and invested and that the deficit is reined in”.

Laiviera described the Budget as directed more at families with children than at women. “Perhaps a measure that be culturally linked to women is childcare. The opening of three more childcare centres is a positive step. However, we need to look at the funds allocated for subsidies as to date uptake is still low,” she said, adding that parents do not find them cost effective.

Speaking on the maternity leave, Laiviera said this should be extended to 20 weeks in the shortest time possible: “This to be in line with the proposed EU directive if Malta aspires to ever reach the 65% target of the European Union for women’s participation rate in the labour market by 2015.”

She said that the extension as announced by government is “a step in the right direction”.

“It would definitely be better if these four weeks are fully paid and not limited to a basic rate of €160 per week. Women should not be penalised for having children, not when the need to increase the birth rate is so vital for the health of our economy.”

Laiviera also called for clarification on the involvement of the MCESD in the implementation of the measure.

“MCESD is an important advisory body and advice in this regard is of relevance. However, if there is full government commitment, the measure should be implemented in the shortest time possible,” she said.

Laiviera highlighted that Budget 2012 allocated no extra funds to strengthen the staff of the commission on domestic violence. “Currently it consists of a shared secretary and relies on ex-ufficio officers, working in the field, who are already overworked. This budget allocated no extra funds to strengthen this much needed entity in order to continue its work against domestic violence.”

She also criticised the fact that no funds were allocated to the Commission for the Promotion of Equality for men and women. “The Commission’s work is mainly funded through EU projects, which means that once these projects end so will its staff and the work they do.”

Neither was extra resource planned for Agenzija Appogg despite the ESF Dignity for Domestic Violence Survivors projects, encouraging victims to call 179 for help.

“In fact, the number of calls has been increasing with the waiting list getting longer and longer. Funds need to be found in order to ensure that those victims who found the courage to call 179 are given the support they need,” Laiviera said.