Why an employer should not terminate a woman worker on maternity leave

Why an employer should not terminate a woman worker on maternity leave

In Ghana, raising a family is a cherished goal for many working women yet still pregnancy and maternity are vulnerable times for working women and families. The subject of maternity leave has become a debatable issue for some years now and has been ignored by stakeholders in the country.  This has allowed employers to mistreat women when they are in that state.

Expectant and nursing mothers require special protection to prevent harm to their health of their infants. So adequate time is needed to give birth, to recover and to nurse their new born babies.

According to the International Labour Office, Maternity is a condition which requires differential treatment to achieve genuine equality and, in this sense, it is more of a premise of the principle of equality than a dispensation. Special maternity protection measures should be taken to enable women to fulfil their maternal role without being marginalized in the labour market.

The employer who hires the services of a worker is mandated under the Labour Act 2003 (651) to fulfil some rights and obligations within the employment relationship in order to ensure that both parties co-exist in a peaceful and harmonious working environment .In Section 55-57 of the Labour Act, an employer shall not dismiss a woman worker because of her absence from work on maternity leave.

The law elaborates that an employer shall provide for maternity leave of not less than 14weeks upon certification by a medical doctor. Maternity leave shall be a period of six weeks ‘compulsory leave after childbirth.

The law also obliges a working woman to go on maternity leave of at least 12 weeks in addition to any period of annual leave and is entitled after a period of confinement. An additional two weeks where confinement is abnormal or where there are two or more babies born.

Protective measures for pregnant women and women who have recently given birth include the prevention of exposure to health and safety hazards during and after pregnancy; entitlement to paid maternity leave; entitlement to breastfeeding breaks; protection against discrimination and dismissal; and a guaranteed right to return to the job after maternity leave.

The well-being of mothers and their babies, and thus  the achievement of Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 adopted by the member States of the United Nations, which seek the reduction of child mortality and improvement of the health of mothers (United Nations, 2009). By safeguarding women’s employment and income security during and after maternity, maternity protection also contributes to the realization of Millennium Development Goal 3, promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Such protection not only ensures a woman’s equal access to employment but also ensures the continuation of often vital income which is necessary for the well-being of her family. Safeguarding the health of expectant and nursing mothers and protecting them from job discrimination is a precondition for achieving genuine equality of opportunity and treatment for men and women at work and enabling workers to raise families in conditions of security.

Working mothers also require protection to ensure that they will not lose their jobs simply because of pregnancy on maternity leave. This special Protection ensures a woman’s equal access to employment.


Maternity Care including ante-natal and post-natal care provided under National Health Insurance Regulations as minimum health care benefits have been very beneficial to pregnant and nursing mothers.

I believe that if the government and stakeholders extend maternity leave to six months, it will provide the human resource employee needs to execute its functions.

Therefore, there is the need for employers to obey the law and follow it with the diligence. However any working woman who faces termination or dismissal without the employer going through due process may submit a written complaint to the National Labour Commission established under Section 135 against the employer who contravenes subsection(1). The Commission shall investigate the complaint and its decision on the matter shall object to any other law be final.

Submitted by: Eunice Lawer (PAO)

National Labour Commission