Ridyah - Sharif M. Taha

16 April 2013 - The Ministry of Labor recently completed a study, which aims to improve working conditions for women in a viable environment that allows them to pursue their careers.

One of the underlying objectives of the study is to ensure greater equality for women in the work force in terms of salaries, medical insurance and other benefits.

The ministry has referred the study to a consultancy firm specialized in women work affairs in the private sector, for further examination and analysis, a local newspaper quoted a reliable source as saying.

Among the other issues tackled in the study are amendments to the maternity law, provisions on childcare centers and the introduction of a system banning all forms of harassment at work.

Amal Sa’ad Shira, deputy chairman of the Human Resources Committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) and the initiator of this study, said the project provides proposals on how to enhance certain laws regarding female employment.

Shira explained further that the study seeks to eliminate the ambiguity that has shrouded certain provisions related to women’s work sites. Currently, the licenses, which approve the working environment for women is subject to the personal judgment of employers and the Labor Ministry inspectors.

Many employers in the private sector have refrained from employing women due to variations in the perspectives provided by inspectors regarding the preconditions for the workplace, she added.

The study suggests that the workplace should be properly equipped to suit the needs and privacy of female employees, including separate resting, prayer and toilet facilities.

The report proposes amendments to the maternity law, which will entitle female employees to four weeks of absence prior to the expected date of delivery and six weeks after the delivery. The suggested alterations also stipulate allowing women the flexibility to add the pre-delivery leave, or part of it to the six weeks of post-delivery absence. In addition, the study proposes permitting female employees to request unpaid leave for a period not exceeding six months to take care of their child at any time during the first six years of childhood.

Regarding the issue of childcare centers, the study stresses the importance of implementing the existing provision, which decrees that if an employer hires more than 50 female workers, he/she must establish a suitable nursery facility for the employees’ children below six years of age.