Maternity leave is a basic right for women, Lahore High Court rules

The Lahore High Court (LHC) has ruled that maternity leave is a fundamental right for women, whether their employment contract includes it or not.

“Article 35 of the Constitution stipulates that the state protects marriage, family, mother and child,” Judge Muzamil Akhtar Shabbir said in Dawn.

The LHC was hearing a petition filed by Sobia Nazir, a head teacher with the Punjab Workers Welfare Board (PWWB) who was denied maternity leave. The court ordered the PWWB to grant the teacher maternity leave in addition to salary and wages during this period.

The PWWB had rejected Sobia’s request for maternity leave, saying she was not entitled to it under the terms and conditions of her contract. She was working on internship/provision basis as Head Teacher of Computer Science at Worker Welfare School (Girls) Warbton, Nankana Sahib District, Punjab.

“Obviously, the law does not compel anyone to perform an act beyond their capacity and the same principle is also recognized by Islam,” added Judge Akhtar.

Most countries in the world guarantee paid maternity leave to new mothers. In Estonia, new mothers can benefit from up to a year and a half of paid leave. In Japan, women receive up to a year. Turkey guarantees 16 weeks of maternity leave.

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