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Maternity rights for women seafarers can differ widely. Here is a brief guide:
On national flag vessels - where you are sailing under the flag of your own country, you will be covered by your own country's legislation, and also by rights guaranteed under your union's collective bargaining agreements. In some cases, there may be differences between the conditions and rights guaranteed by maritime law and those laid down for other workers. In other cases, seafarers are treated in the same way as other workers in terms of maternity pay and leave.
On Flag of convenience (FOC) vessels, maternity rights are governed by the legislation of the flag state which may not give any rights at all. However, minimum rights are guaranteed under ITF-approved agreements.
All ITF-approved agreements for merchant vessels stipulate that pregnant seafarers must be repatriated at the cost of the company and must received two months full pay in compensation. If your company is refusing to apply these rules, contact an ITF Inspector. Opinions differ as to when in the pregnancy a pregnant seafarer should be repatriated. Where the ship is trading coastally, or where a doctor is on board, then it is generally safer for pregnant women to work later into a pregnancy - in Britain, up to 28 weeks. However, if working on deepsea vessels, the risks need to be assessed carefully. If you are unsure what to do, contact your union or an ITF Inspector.
Remember, becoming pregnant is not a crime or a disciplinary offence. The ITF strongly condemns employers who treat women this way.
If you are worried about any of the issues surrounding pregnancy, ISAN's SeafarerHelp can also refer you to a confidential advice service.
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