Maternity protection
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Maternity protection

Raising a family is a cherished goal for many working people. Yet pregnancy and maternity are an especially vulnerable time for working women and their families. Expectant and nursing mothers require special protection to prevent harm to their or their infants' health, and they need adequate time to give birth, to recover, and to nurse their children. At the same time, they also require protection to ensure that they will not lose their job simply because of pregnancy or maternity leave. Such protection not only ensures a woman's equal access to employment, it also ensures the continuation of often vital income which is necessary for the well-being of her entire 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.


  1. ILO report

    Maternity and paternity at work: Law and practice across the world

    The study reviews national law and practice on both maternity and paternity at work in 185 countries and territories including leave, benefits, employment protection, health protection, breastfeeding arrangements at work and childcare.


  1. © S.Jensen /GAVI ALLIANCE /AFP 2014
  2. © Richard Lewisohn/Image Source 2014

Maternity at work

  1. Unpaid maternity leave: the harsh reality for many working women

    Interview with Marie Holmes, high-school teacher in New York, mother of two.

Standards and laws

International Labour standards

  1. ILO Convention No. 183 defines 5 core elements of maternity protection at work:
- Maternity leave
- Cash and medical benefits
- Employment protection and non-discrimination
- Health protection
- Breastfeeding arrangements at the workplace
  1. Other relevant International Conventions and Recommendations
National laws

  1. Database of Conditions of Work and Employment Laws
  2. A review of national legislation (2nd edition)
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