The Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 (No. 183), was established by the ILO to promote “equality of all women in the workforce and the health and safety of the mother and child”. The Convention sets minimum standards that need to be implemented in order for pregnant women and working mothers to be adequately protected in the labour market. The Convention has so far been ratified by 38 ILO member countries. Georgia, a member of the ILO since 1993, has not yet ratified the Convention. Even as the Labour Code of Georgia made significant progress over the past decade (e.g. increasing the ceiling on paid maternity leave benefits in 2013 and introducing the paid parental leave concept in 2020), important maternity protection aspects of the law have not yet received proper attention. As a result, even the most recent Georgian labour legislation (adopted in September 2020) still comes short of the standards set by the ILO Maternity Protection Convention. In addition to the Convention’s standards, Georgia has committed to harmonizing and updating its legislation in line with that of the EU within the framework of the 2014 Association Agreement (AA). Among the relevant legislative themes are labour law, anti-discrimination and gender equality, as well as health and safety at work. While this current commitment does not mean that Georgia would be responsible for directly transposing EU legislation into its own legal framework, nor does it set the timeline for updating some of the newer standards, the general principles of the EU labour and social protection law would have to be at least considered by the Georgian legislators.
In this policy context, the ratification of Convention No. 183 would be an important step towards bringing Georgian legislation in line with international practices in a fiscally sustainable way, promoting the rights of working mothers, ensuring the safety and well-being of mothers and children, and helping level the playing field for both genders in the labour market.
The ISET Policy Institute (ISET-PI) – in collaboration with UN Women in the scope of the project “Women’s Economic Empowerment in the South Caucasus” (WEESC), funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) – has implemented a Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) to study the prospects and organize a policy dialogue towards the possible ratification of the Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 (No. 183).
In the process, the RIA team identified a large number of stakeholders, including various governmental bodies, international organizations, human rights NGOs, labour unions, business associations and the Ombudsman’s Office, as well as gender, labour market and legal experts. The views and opinions of all of the stakeholders were carefully documented and taken into account. The summary of consultations is provided in Annex 2 of the RIA document.
During the consultation process, two main problems were identified and then analysed in-depth during the RIA process. First, the Georgian labour legislation, including the most current version of the Labour Code of Georgia (LLCG), does not guarantee and does not provide sufficient compensation to support the mother and her child for the duration of the paid maternity leave period (183 days according to the LLCG). The maternity leave compensation under the LLCG covers only 65 per cent of the subsistence minimum for the equivalent of 1.5 adults for six months. The second problem is the unequal takeup of maternity leave among different groups of workers, particularly the difference between women who are civil servants versus workers in other sectors. An extension of this is the unequal take-up of leave among women versus men. The Georgian labour legislation, while nominally not tying maternity leave to women only, makes it procedurally very difficult (for civil servants) or (until recently) impossible (in all other sectors) for men to take the paid childcare leave benefit. Thus, maternity leave is overwhelmingly taken by mothers.