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Paid medical leave extended for pregnant workers during pandemic

Pregnant workers are now entitled to 26 weeks of medical leave at 60% pay during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Social Security Board (SSB).

The benefits will be paid out from the national social security fund, it said.

Spokespersons from the labour ministry could not say whether employers will be required to chip in the remaining 40%.

The policy announcement comes after health ministry guidelines released on March 30 barred pregnant women from working during the pandemic.

In normal circumstances, pregnant workers are entitled under the 2012 Social Security Law to six weeks maternity leave at 70% pay before delivery and eight weeks after.

The new extension will be considered a paid medical leave; once within six weeks of their expected delivery date, recipients will have to switch their claims from medical to maternal leave to receive the full 70% of wages they’re entitled to under that law, according to the new policy.

To be eligible, employees must have been registered and eligible for social security for at least six months and have paid at least fourth months worth of contributions, SSB director general Maung Maung Aye told Myanmar Now.

Some women may have to take a urine pregnancy test to qualify.

Once confirmed, they must contact the SSB every eight weeks to claim their benefits.

Social security fees are based on a worker’s declared salary. Since some workers declare lower salaries than they actually earn in an effort to lower their social security fees, some may end up receiving less than 60% of their actual salary, SSB director Than Than Nwe told Myanmar Now.

As of April 29, there were 1,812 pregnant workers registered with the SSB, and many have since begun filing claims, Than Than Nwe said.

Myanmar Now reported in January, before the pandemic took off, that pregnant garment workers are often denied maternity leave, particularly in the case of a miscarriage.

More than 100 were denied leave leading up to and after a miscarriage between 2017 and the begining of 2020, according to the Confederation of Trade Unions in Myanmar.

The problem is worse in manufacturing than in most other sectors, according to Thet Thet Aung, director of Future Light Center, a labour rights organisation.

She told Myanmar Now her office has received at least one report so far of a pregnant factory worker being fired after the health ministry barred pregnant women from working during the pandemic, but before the new medical leave policy was announced.

The SSB is also offering grants to cover 60% of sick and quarantined workers’ wages and 40% of the wages of those employed at factories closed for Covid-19 inspections in late April.

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Source : Myanmar Now

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