The International Labour Organisation (ILO) is the United Nations agency for the world of work. It sets international labour standards, promotes rights at work, encourages decent employment opportunities, the enhancement of social protection and the strengthening of dialogue on work-related issues. The ILO has a unique structure, bringing together governments, employers’ and workers’ representatives.
The year 2019 will mark both the ILO’s 100th anniversary and the first centenary of international labour standards on maternity protection. In fact, protecting maternity at work was one of the primary concerns of the ILO. It was during the First International Labour Conference in 1919 that the first Convention on Maternity Protection (Convention No. 3) was adopted. This Convention was followed by the adoption of two other Maternity Protection Conventions: No. 103 in 1952 and No. 183 in 2000. These standards progressively expanded the scope and entitlements related to maternity protection at work in line with the evolving status and recognition of women’s rights in the world of work. Over the years, the core concerns of the ILO have been to ensure that work performed by women, in all its forms and situations, does not pose risks to the health of the woman and her child and to ensure that women’s reproductive roles do not compromise their economic and employment security and subject them to undue discrimination.
Maternity protection for women workers contributes to the health and well-being of mothers and their babies, and thus to the achievement of Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 adopted by the Member States of the United Nations, which seek the reduction of child mortality and improvement of the health of mothers. By safeguarding women’s employment and income security during and after maternity, maternity protection is also essential in ensuring a woman’s access to equality of opportunity and treatment in the workplace, and progress towards Millennium Development Goal 3 - promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.