“I had no other income. My maternity leave was not paid. My salary was crucial for taking care of the baby, so I went back to my job a month after giving birth. When I had my second child, I did not take maternity leave at all, I was working online” – Natia, who has been working in a small private company for a couple of years, tells us.
After having her first child, she took a standard, 24-day paid leave provided by the law, and then went back to work. Her employer gave her an extra break because she was breastfeeding. She mentions that she had a good private insurance package, that fully covered costs of pregnancy examinations, childbirth, anesthesia, and a separate ward. The state covered a small part of the maternity leave – 1000 GEL. As for the state insurance, she says that she did not use it because of extra bureaucracy.
“Private companies do not have the obligation to pay for your maternity leave, they can give you an unpaid one. I could take it, but I did not even consider it, because I really needed the salary. Besides, the company is really small and nobody could have replaced me. Responsibilities are so divided, that I could not have handed it over to anybody else. But, the main problem was my financial state. In the public sector, which is financed for by the private sector, maternity leave is fully paid. So, they have the luxury to stay home for 6 months, take care of the baby and do not worry about not getting a paycheck at the end of the month” – says Natia.
You are always sleep deprived and you are working like nothing happened.
She also says that a paid maternity leave would change a lot for her, including her physical and psychological state.
“You are always sleep deprived and you are working like nothing happened. What does it matter whether you do this at home or in the office? It might be easy for people who do not have kids, but it’s very hard for parents to work from home”.
Natia does not think that the state should decide everything and tell the business sector what to do, so it might not be obliged to offer paid maternity leave, but the state should take this responsibility. She also thinks that if the country is rich, business sector will take care of this issue itself.
“Big, successful businesses, like banks provide paid maternity leave for their employees. Everybody I knew who worked at a bank, took paid maternity leaves,” – she says and adds that it was very surprising to find out that the state pays 1000 GEL only to employed women.
“It’s like hell that if a woman does not work, she does not get anything. Also, this amount has not changed over the years, even though the prices have changed”, – says Natia.
April Media’s another respondent, Elene, worked in a private school when she was pregnant with her third child. She tells us that she took an unpaid leave, because the company did not provide a paid one.
I wanted to see a psychologist after giving birth, but I could not because I did not have enough money.
I had a corporate health insurance and I planned to give birth according to it. I worked until I was eight months pregnant, and did not even imagine that I had to think about anything else. I discovered that they were going to stop my insurance and leave me like that. If I did not get a salary, where would they take the money from? I was shocked. After a lot of begging and asking the founders, they continued my insurance. I had a family package, so my husband and two kids were also included. Because they did me a “favor” and continued it, they cancelled the family package and made me get an individual one. Afterwards, I had problems with the insurance company. Because I had to change my package, the waiting period would have to increase, which meant that I had to fully cover the costs of giving birth myself. Then I had to beg them, and the problem was fixed. Of course, I had to pay them for the next 4 months. Finally, I had to leave my job. They often called and asked me to come back. I was a very good employee, I was at work from 7 in the morning to 6 in the afternoon, and my salary was pretty low. But, because of their ungratefulness and inhumanity, I did not want to go back. I was very shocked in the beginning,” – Elene remembers.
She says that for many women, the issue of paid maternity leave can be crucial for continuing their career.
“Fortunately, I had a hope that my husband could help and I became dependent on him. It was very hard for me that I did not have a salary anymore. It impacted our family and our expenses increased. Everybody knows how many things a baby needs. I wanted to see a psychologist after giving birth, but I could not because I did not have enough money. I have been independent since I was young and I’m used to it. Everybody should be able to at least buy hygienic products. They should also receive some help for their physical and psychological health. When my insurance was cancelled, I could not see a psychologist and I became completely dependent on somebody else. Yes, my child is my happiness and I was the one who decided to have them, but this should not be a verdict for in a woman’s life,” – says Elene.
According to her, women have to do many things at once, take care of children, the house, business/work, the laundry, shopping, studying, developing and so on.
“This is very hard and it would be good if responsibilities are divided equally with men. It would also be good if they did not ask how many kids we have at job interviews, or if we had support with lactation. Also, if we did not have to fear we will have no food during our maternity leave”.
She tells us that with the 1000 GEL that the state gave her as a maternity leave payment, she bought a sewing machine and learnt how to sew on the internet. Then she started a small start-up and won a small grant. Now she plans to learn more and grow her business, but says that she hasn’t forgotten about teaching and she passed her exams this year.
“I will probably go back to teaching, but not at a private school. I would like to connect my two professions and have some interesting class at school, in which I will teach children not only about the class, but about life. It sounds a little unrealistic, but I believe in goals, not in dreams.
My boss told me that I could write a statement, but she could not do anything. She would save my place, but I would also need support when I came back.
Another one of our respondents, Nino, worked in a budget organization, and the law provided her with a 2-year maternity leave, from which 6 months is paid.
“You can’t imagine how happy I was when I found out about this. After about 5 months, I went to see my boss, to say that I would not be able to return after 6 months, and needed to extend my leave up to 8-9 months. My boss was not at work, she had Covid, so I had to talk to them on the phone. When she heard about this, at first, she were saying that maternity leave lasts 6 months and I did not have the right to extend it. After I got the exact information from an appropriate department, I called again and said that I had a year and a half left. This drove them crazy, saying that there was a lot of things to do and she were waiting for me to go back to work. I knew that there really was a lot to do at work, but I had the right to use my leave. She told me that I could write a statement, but she could not do anything. She would save my place, but I would also need support when I came back,” – Nino remembers.
She were persisting so eagerly that I came back to work, that I was shocked. She told me that others also have kids, but she still work.
She says that she did not want to ruin their relationship and told them she would come back, but asked not to be placed in the night shift, because she was still breastfeeding. The answer was no, with the explanation that the boss could not offer her different conditions than others.
“Because of my profession, I know the law very well, and I also know what privileges a nursing mother is supposed to receive, but she were persisting so eagerly that I came back to work, that I was shocked. She told me that others also have kids, but she still work, that their baby was one month old when she went back to work, and it was not the end of the world”.
Nino tells us that she went back home angry and upset. Her and her husband calculated their income and expenses, and she both decided that it was not worth it to work with this person, in this environment.
“Many people were surprised when I left. She could not figure out why, when I still had a year and a half of my leave left. A lot of people who heard this story, asked me, why I didn’t extend my leave and not care about what she thought. I was not planning to go back, so what did it matter? That woman made me sick, and I wanted nothing to do with that place”.
Elene Janelidze has a different experience. She is still on her maternity leave.
“I got lucky. I work in an organization which understand its social responsibilities and pays for the maternity leave. I say I got lucky because I know that there are not many organizations like this in Georgia. I was calm when I decided to have a baby, because I knew I would not temporarily “lose” my paycheck. Many families around me do not have children/second children because of financial instability. Some women go back to work early to get their salary back. This is stressful for both infants, and mothers, who have to deal with postpartum challenges”, – says Elene.
She says that during her maternity leave, she has often thought about how privileged she is compared to other women, and how much harder it is to take care of children for parents who do not get a paid maternity leave from their employer.
Note: names of the women in the article, except Elene Janelidze, have been changed. They did not wish to identify themselves for different reasons.
What Is Written In the Law?
Article 37 of the Labor Code regulates the issue of maternity leave in Georgia. In the case of civil servants, the law on public service also applies. It is worth noting that the regulation of maternity leave in the private and public sectors is different – in the private sector, the payment by the state is limited to 2000 GEL, which was 1000 GEL before 2023, and civil servants are fully compensated for maternity leave. The full compensation of the maternity leave of a person employed in a private company depends on the good will of the company. There are organizations in which the employee is compensated for the full period and there are organizations in which the employee receives only the amount paid by the state.
What Obligations Does the Private Sector Have?
According to the Labor Code, by law, there are several types of maternity leave:
- Leave due to pregnancy and childbirth
- Leave due to child care
- Leave due to the adoption of a newborn
- Additional leave due to child care
126 days of paid leave due to pregnancy and childbirth are given to the employee based on their request, and 143 days in case of complications of childbirth or the birth of twins. The employee can, at their discretion, distribute this leave to pregnancy and postpartum periods. In addition, the use of leave due to pregnancy and childbirth is the exclusive right of the child’s mother, although the child’s father has the right to use the days of said leave that the child’s mother has not used.
Child care leave is given to the employee based on their request for 604 days, and in case of childbirth complications or the birth of twins – 587 days. 57 days of this leave are paid. Childcare leave can be used in whole or in part by the child’s mother or father. When taking leave for child care, the employee is obliged to notify the employer 2 weeks in advance.
The employee uses the leave due to pregnancy and childbirth and the paid part of the leave due to child care in order, therefore, in total it can be 183 or 200 days.
An employee may use additional leave due to child care at their request, fully or in parts, but not less than 2 weeks per year. In addition, it is possible to take additional unpaid leave for childcare in the amount of 12 weeks until the child turns 5 years old. Additional leave due to child care may be granted to the employee who actually cares for the child.
An employee who has adopted a child under 1 year of age can take leave for the adoption of a newborn child, based on their request, for 550 days after the child’s birth. 90 days of this leave are paid.
According to the Labor Code of Georgia, leave due to pregnancy and childbirth, leave due to child care and leave due to the adoption of a newborn are compensated from the state budget of Georgia, according to the rules established by the legislation of Georgia. The amount of compensation is determined by the resolution of the Government of Georgia. In addition, the employer and employee may agree on additional compensation for said leaves.
Researcher, lawyer of Social Justice Center, Nino Tsagareishvili notes that one of the main problems in the legislation is low pay, which practically limits the right of employed women to maternity leave.
“2000 GEL is not enough for a woman to actually take advantage of maternity leave and provide herself and her newborn with essential needs for 6 months. Employers in the private sector do not have any obligation to pay additional compensation for maternity leave in addition to the 2,000 GEL paid by the state,” she says.
According to her, when the law was amended, there was an expectation that the approach in this direction would also change, but these expectations did not come true. Nino positively evaluates the separation of leave due to pregnancy and childbirth and leave due to childcare, which allowed fathers to be able to take a parental leave as well.
We also asked her how appropriate it is to obligate the private sector to pay for maternity leave and whether there is a risk that it will affect women’s employment. She doesn’t think so.
“No, it would be a step forward for women, for the protection of their rights. In this way, the private sector will not be burdened with particularly large obligations, which it cannot bear, taking into account that here the state is already actually helping private employers by allocating a certain amount. Even if the employer adds a certain amount of money and the full financing of this issue and the protection of women’s rights is done through mutual efforts, it would be very important,” she says.
What Obligations Does the Public Sector Have?
The issue of maternity leave of civil servants is additionally clarified by the Law of Georgia on Civil Service. According to the document, the civil servant is given 730 days of leave due to pregnancy, childbirth and child care based on their request.
183 days are paid from the leave due to pregnancy, childbirth and child care, and 200 days in case of childbirth complications or the birth of twins. Remuneration is paid from the budget of the relevant public institution, taking into account the official salary and class allowance, and the official who has been awarded a military or special rank is given a seniority allowance and rank salary along with salary.
A civil servant has the right to distribute the leave due to pregnancy, childbirth and child care at their discretion to the periods after pregnancy and childbirth.
An employee who has adopted a child under 1 year of age, based on their request, is given a leave for the adoption of a newborn for 550 days after the birth of the child. 90 days of this leave are paid. Remuneration is paid from the budget of the relevant public institution, taking into account the official salary and class allowance, and the official who has been awarded a military or special rank is given a seniority allowance and rank salary along with salary.
In addition, the missed working hours due to medical examinations during pregnancy of the civil servant will be credited and the labor remuneration will be maintained in case of submission of the documents confirming the examinations.