Women’s right to one day off at work

OWEN Kabanda.

AS THE world continues to evolve, more women are coming into the corporate world and leaving the kitchen where they were confined for so long due to some traditional practices.
To this effect, therefore, women are becoming equal partners in the development of the country, and the Government is making sure they receive the appropriate protection accordingly.
It is clearly stated in the Preamble of the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Act No. 2 of 2016 that, “We the people of Zambia, confirm the equal worth of women and men and their right to freely participate in, determine and build a sustainable political, legal, economic and social order.”
It is an undisputable fact that, given the appropriate environment and support, women make some of the best business persons as well as employees.
To this effect, employers should endeavour to be inclusive and provide women with more employment opportunities, as well as promotion opportunities when in employment.
When you employ women, it is important to understand that there are certain provisions in the laws that apply to this category of workers.
In addition to any other laws applicable to employees, female employees also get to go on maternity leave, nurse a sick child, and be off one day every month.
A look at this one day off allowable for women is herein done.
(1). Legal provisions:
Section 54(2) of the Employment Act, CAP 268 of the Laws of Zambia provides that every female employee shall be entitled to one (1) day’s absence from work each month without having to produce a valid medical certificate.
This is the one day off that has come to be widely known as “Mothers’ Day”.
(2). Eligibility Criteria:
There have been a lot of controversies surrounding this famous day.
Some people argue that it should not be taken by:
(i) young and any female employee who has no children; and
(ii) older employees who have reached menopause and assumed to have stopped bearing children.
While such arguments may look valid on face value, there is currently no single piece of legislation that stipulates the category of female employees who can and cannot enjoy this one day off.
In its current form, this law is for every female employee.
Further, nowhere in the law is it written that the employer first needs to see signs or proof that the female employee has started experiencing period pains before they can be allowed to go off duty.
(3). Powers of an employer:
Some employers have contended that female employees cannot take this one day off on Friday or Monday as it is assumed that the female employees just want to extend their weekends.
Others have argued that female employees disrupt production and, therefore, they should have a timetable.
In other circumstances, employers demand that the female employee brings a sick note for this one day off. Take note however that the law simply says “…absence without having to produce a valid medical certificate.”
In order not to adversely affect production or service delivery, you can have some understanding and arrangement with the female employees to inform you in advance but remember that this is only persuasive.
(4). Validity period:
The said one day off for female employees is not cumulative.
If the female employee did not utilise it in a particular month, they cannot come and take two (2) days in the new month.
(5). Treatment of day of absence:
When a female employee wishes to proceed on mothers’ day, they may inform the supervisor.
The law does not require the supervisor to authorise or not. However, for operational purposes, it is important that the female employee makes arrangements with the supervisor.
If the organisation so wishes, there may be no need for any paperwork. However, having no documented proof of the female employee taking this day off is not advisable.
If you do not document this one day, chances are that the female employee may come and make claims in future that they were never given an opportunity to enjoy their right to this one day off.
In many cases, therefore, and for purposes of ensuring that one does not end up going on mother’s day twice, female employees are required to fill in a form or write in a book or send an email or just anything to document this somewhere.
In the human resources (HR) and or payroll systems, the employer/HR is supposed to indicate justified absence so that the female employee does not lose payment for that one day.
Some HR/payroll systems also calculate employees’ bonuses, incentives, service benefits, and or gratuity based on a parameter that the employee completes a full month.
If that one day off is not treated properly, the female employees may end up losing out on those bonuses, incentives, service benefits, or gratuities, and the employer ends up being dragged to Labour Office or court.
To this effect, while some employers may think they do not need to pay attention to this mothers’ day, it has far-reaching consequences.
In conclusion, it is highly advisable that employers should endeavour to hire female employees, and be inclusive.
Endeavour to have a balanced workforce, follow the laws, and allow women to contribute positively to your organisation, their communities, and development of the country as a whole.
The author is a human resources and business and advisor.

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