THE chief executive of the Social Security Commission (SCC), Milka Mungunda, says the commission has started with engagements to increase maternity leave from three to four months, along with benefits.
Mungunda yesterday commented on a motion tabled in the National Assembly by Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) member Winnie Moongo, calling for five months’ maternity leave with full pay.
Moongo also wants paternity leave to be included in this legislative framework.
“The International Labour Organisation convention makes provision for about 16 weeks’ maternity leave. Currently we’ve got 12 weeks. From that perspective, we are very receptive to an increase in maternity benefits,” Mungunda said.
This would require the commission to amend its act, which Mungunda said it is currently busy with.
“In fact, even today, this whole week, we were having meetings to amend the Social Security Act,” she said.
In terms of paternity leave, she said it is a Ministry of Labour, Industrial Realtions and Employment Creation matter, but the commission has not made any recommendation to the ministry to introduce this to the act yet.
“What you’re saying is that we have not made any recommendations to the labour ministry for paternity leave. But we as an institution make provision for paternity leave for our staff,” she said.
Moongo, in the National Assembly yesterday said: “Pregnancy and maternity are potentially vulnerable times for working women and their families. Expectant mothers and fathers and nursing mothers require special protection to prevent any potential adverse effects from them and their infants.”
She requested that the motion be referred to the relevant parliamentary standing committee for further inquiry.
’THREE MONTHS NOT ENOUGH’
Labour expert Herbert Jauch welcomed the motion which he said would be a progressive law for young mothers.
Jauch said the usual three months given as maternity leave is not enough and extending it to five months with full pay would allow mothers to spend enough time with their babies.
“With regards to paternity, it was already debated, but looking at international examples where fathers are allowed to receive paternity is a progressive move.
“It would allow them to support their partners when their babies are still small,” he said.
In March 2022, The Namibian reported that Namibian women have three months of maternity leave while being paid up to N$15 000 per month.
These were among a raft of amendments to SSC payouts for maternity, sick leave and death benefits gazetted by the ministry last year.
Expecting women used to get a maximum of N$13 000 per month – regardless of their salaries.
The new benefit involves 100% of women’s basic wage, with a maximum of N$15 000 per month.
The amended maternity leave benefits are payable over a maximum of 12 weeks.
Expecting women previously opted to work until their due date to avert potential financial losses.
The new sick leave benefits are currently equal to 75% of an employee’s basic wage, up to a maximum of N$11 250 per month for 12 months.
This amount was previously N$9 750.
The death benefit is currently a single lump sum of N$12 000, compared to the N$8 475 received before.
Namibian laws currently do not provide for men to claim paternity benefits.
In 2019, the Namibia Network of AIDS Service Organisations advocated for the introduction of paternity leave to involve fathers in the early stages of their children’s upbringing.
Jauch, during a previous interview said the proposed paternity leave by unions could mitigate issues around maternity leave and allow men the opportunity to assist women with newborns.
“This is a common practice in other countries, but our lawmakers have so far not entertained it at all. It is definitely something to look at, because there is nothing for young fathers in the current law,” he said.
Some institutions allow paternal leave, such as the Arandis Town Council, which entitles workers to 10 days’ paternal leave.
Similarly, men at Namdock have been given two days’ paternity leave as part of a wage agreement.