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HOR : Widowhood Leave Bill Scales 2nd Reading

todayMarch 20, 2024 7

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A bill for an Act to provide for the implementation of a widowhood leave bill in Nigeria has scaled through second reading.

The private member bill titled ‘Widowhood Leave Bill, 2023, Sponsored by Musa Abdullahi, observed that the proposed leave of 5 months and 4 weeks will provide the widows and widowers with the necessary time and space to grieve, seek counselling, and adjust to the new realities, adding that the support can significantly contribute to their emotional healing and overall resilience.

He also explained that the proposed leave allows widows to focus on caring for their children and other family members who may be dependent on them during this challenging time, as well as fulfilling some religious and cultural obligations.

According to him, a Muslim widow is expected to perform iddah (the waiting period) for a period of four months and 10 days, during which she would not be expected to attend any function outside her home or be required to interface with any man who is not her immediate relative.

While stressing that widows and widowers in Nigeria face numerous challenges following the loss of their spouses, he maintained that the affected group of persons are often left to single-handedly care for their children and attend to pressing family matters.

“This crucial piece of legislation aims to address the pressing issue of supporting individuals who have lost their spouses, helping them navigate the challenging period of widowhood”.

“This bill is divided into five clauses. The first clause specified the period of leave that is formally grant able to a widow and widower with full entitlement to their pay. The second clause defines the persons who are eligible for leave, and the third clause states the punishment for the violation of the bill”.

Meanwhile, the fourth clause provides for the interpretation of the terms ‘widow’ and ‘widower’.

He argued that “women’s legislation has been enacted in many countries around the world; for instance, widows are entitled to 15 days of paid leave in India, while widows are entitled to 60 days of paid leave in the Philippines”.

“Research findings have shown that in Nigeria, public sector organisations grant bereavement leave for 14 days. This is no doubt derived from the Public Sector Rules, which states in clause 100230 that ‘An officer may be allowed special leave from duty on full pay on compassionate grounds for a period up to two weeks for the burial of a spouse, child, parent, or parent of a spouse’.

“Considering that in countries like Australia and Brazil, bereavement leave is typically two days, and in countries like Canada, France, Spain, and the US, it is usually three days. Therefore, one may say the 14 days prescribed by the Public Sector Rules are sufficient, but when one looks at the prevalent cultural and religious practices of Nigeria, it seems inadequate. It is always necessary that an organisation look at the cultural context, as the way people mourn is deeply rooted in culture”.

“In Eastern Nigeria, for instance, the burial of the deceased usually takes place after a few weeks or months (depending on the family), and the mourning period for a widow in modern times is three months, even though traditionally it is up to a year. In Islam, while mourning is usually three days, the waiting period for a widow is up to four months”.

“During this period, the bereaved spouse receives visitors for at least a month. Therefore, with our culture in view, giving a widower 30 days and a widow five months of widowhood leave for the death of a spouse may be reasonable”.

“Widowhood leave is a demonstration of a commitment to supporting employees during times of personal crisis. By providing this benefit, employers can foster a positive work culture, enhance employee loyalty, and improve overall workplace morale”.

“It ensures that individuals have the opportunity to address any financial matters, such as accessing insurance benefits, updating legal documents, managing household finances, etc.,” he noted.

Oduyemi Odumade, Edited By Grace Namiji

Written by: Safiya Wada

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