Do domestic workers have the right to have babies?

Read about Zambian Domestic Workers and Pregnancy, Women and Work, Women and Health and more on Mywage Zambia.



By Meluse Kapatamoyo

Under the Zambian laws, every female worker, no matter her occupation, is entitled to four months maternity leave. But for those women working as domestic workers, getting pregnant often means losing their jobs.

In Zambia, like many other countries, domestic work is not considered formal employment and often falls outside of labour protection laws. This means these workers are at the mercy of their employers who have the right to fire them without notice.

With unemployment levels sky-rocketing, coupled with low wages paid to domestic workers and lack of labour union representation, employers do not often face repercussions for indiscriminately firing their workers.

Fired without notice

Donna Kabanda, 24, narrated to Mywage Zambia  how she was fired without notice, after working for three years, when her employer discovered she was three months pregnant.

“I arrived at work at 7am but couldn’t find my uniform in its usual place. At first I thought I had misplaced it but when I entered the main house, I found a woman washing dishes in the kitchen and she was wearing my uniform.

“Before I could give any reaction, my boss appeared and told me I no longer had a job. In her words she said, ‘I can’t have a pregnant woman working in my house, what will people say. You knew it would be impossible for you to continue working once you got pregnant. I need someone strong and dependable, so here is your salary, you can leave now’ she told me.

“I stood there, speechless, with tears rolling down my face as she turned away and went back to her bedroom. I looked at the money in my hands; it was K75, 000 (US $ 15), half of my salary. I knew it would be pointless to try and argue with her so I left.

 “I still can’t believe it happened to me because I was a faithful worker. In the three years that I had worked for, not once, except the week before I was fired, did I absent myself from work. I worked Mondays to Saturdays, including holidays, from 7am to 6pm.

Sick at work

“But there was one particular day that I just could not stop vomiting. Even when I managed to reach my employer’s residence, I failed to do anything. Finally my boss gave me permission to return home. The next morning was worse - apart from vomiting, my head was spinning. I stayed home that day which was a Saturday. I rested on Sunday, my official day off, only to be fired on Monday.

“From the K75, 000 I was given, I paid rent for my house and remained with K10, 000. It has been two months since I lost my job. My sister has been helping me with groceries and rent money but she can no longer cope. I am going to the village to live with my 75 year-old mother, I hate to inconvenience her but right now I have no option. However, I intend to come back and look for another job once I have delivered. And yes - I will think twice about getting pregnant.”

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