Since the ILO was founded in 1919, international labour standards have been established to provide maternity protection for women workers. The International labour standard instruments on maternity protection are the most recent ILO standards, which expand the scope and entitlements of maternity protection at work to all employed women, including those employed in atypical forms of dependent work.
The key elements of maternity protection reflect the concern to ensure that women’s work does not pose risks to the health of the woman and her child and that women’s reproductive roles do not compromise their economic and employment security. These elements include the right to:
- maternity leave;
- cash benefits to ensure the mother can support herself and her child during leave;
- medical care;
- protection of the health of pregnant and breastfeeding women and their children from workplace risks;
- protection from dismissal and discrimination; and
- breastfeeding on return to work.
Maternity protection for women workers contributes to the health and well-being of mothers and their babies, and thus to 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. And by safeguarding women’s employment and income security during and after maternity, maternity protection is also essential for ensuring women’s access to equality of opportunity and treatment in the workplace, and progress towards Millennium Development Goal 3, promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.
What we do
The Conditions of Work and Employment Programme is working in partnership with the ILO tripartite partners and other concerned groups and organizations to promote policies and measures which are in line with relevant international labour standards on maternity protection.