House Advocates for Five-Month Bereavement Leave for Widows, Four Weeks For Widowers


Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed a bill for second reading aimed at implementing a Widowhood leave in Nigeria. The bill, titled ‘Widowhood leave bill, 2034 (hb.401’ was sponsored by Hon. Said Musa Abdullahi representing the Bida/Ggbako/Katcha federal constituency of Niger State. Abdullahi highlighted that the introduction of Widowhood leave recognizes the unique challenges faced by widows and widowers, providing them with necessary time and space to grieve, seek counseling, and adjust to new realities, thereby contributing significantly to their emotional healing and overall resilience. He mentioned that it enables widows to prioritize caring for their children and other family members who rely on them during this difficult period.

He said;

“It allows widows to fulfill some religious and cultural obligations. For example,a Muslim widow is expected to perform Iddah (waiting period) for a period of four months and 10 days. During this period, she would not be expected to attend to any function outside her home and she is not required to interface with any ma that is not her immediate relation. You will recall that this bill was presented and scaled first reading on the floor of this hallowed chamber on July 27, 2023.

He continued;

“Widows and widowers in Nigeria face numerous challenges following the loss of their spouses. They 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 to navigate the challenging period of widowhood.

“This bill is divided into five clauses. The first clause specified the period of leave that is formally grantable to a widow and widower with full entitlement to their pays. The second clause defines the persons who are eligible for thr leave and the third clause states the punishment for the violation pf the Bill. Meanwhile, the fourth clause provides for interpretation of the terms ‘widow’ and ‘widower’.

Widowhood legislation has been enacted in many countries around the world, for instance, widows are entitled to 15 days of paid leave in Indian, while widows are entitled to 60 days leave with pay in Philippines. It is important to recognise that the Nigeria Labour Act (2004) does not explicitly provide for any form of leaves that covers widowhood leave warranting a much-needed review. However, despite this lacuna in the law, organisations around the country make provision for bereavement leave, a time off work given to employees when faced with the death of spouses.

In fact, some organisation go a step further to offer some form of financial support formally and informally.”

Research findings indicate that in Nigeria, public sector organizations provide a Bereavement Leave period of 14 days. This policy appears to stem from the Public Sector Rules, specifically clause 100230, which states that “An officer may be allowed special leave from duty on full pay on compassionate ground for a period up to two weeks for the burial of spouse/child/parents/parents of spouse.”

He continued;

“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 Public Sector Rules is sufficient but when one looks at the prevalent culture and religious practices of Nigeria, it seems inadequate. It is always necessary that an organisation looks 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, 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 death of a spouse may be reasonable”

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