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Gender and Health in Latin America: Law, Maternity Leave (Cuba)


Motherhood and the many requirements that come with it provide a good starting point for analysis of women’s need for protection, on the one hand, and the limits on women’s decision-making imposed in protective legislation, on the other. When women entered the labor market, it became necessary to address their needs and concerns as both women and workers. As a result, women’s movements worldwide have focused on legal rights that seek to acknowledge women’s roles as both mothers and professionals, such as maternity leave.

This legal document, the “Working Women’s Maternity Law,” demonstrates how Cuban legislature, under the only revolutionary government in the Americas, has addressed the topic of motherhood and women workers’ rights. Given that the Cuban leadership prides itself in promoting equality among all Cubans as part of the goals of the Cuban Revolution, this document deserves particular attention.

Consider whether the Cuban Law indeed reflects gender equity, addressing men and women as citizens with equal rights and obligations. To what extent do traditional understandings of women’s roles in society shape this revolutionary legislation? Reflect on how and why the roles of working mothers and fathers are different, and the ways that biological difference influences the understanding of equal rights in a legal context.

This source is a part of the Gender and Health in Latin America, 1980-2010 teaching module.



Protection of maternity and childhood by the state was a principle formally proclaimed in Cuba by the more progressive bourgeois law. However, the scarce and irregular social and economic development of our country, plus the vices that characterized the period of the pseudorepublic, not only limited but also largely sidetracked that much-touted protection.

Maternity Leave was established in Cuba in 1934, supposedly to benefit all working mothers-to-be. However, it never met the needs of the great majority of these women, since its benefits were not extended to either farm women or to the vast army of maids and other women who did odd jobs, so typical of that society.

The Revolution always proclaimed the intention, in keeping with its principles, of putting into effect the protection and care of the working people masses. Along with other measures following the triumph of the Revolution in January 1959, Cuba began to develop the material foundations for providing preventive medical care and hospitalization to women and children and to the people in general. One of the outstanding achievements in this direction was the rapid extension of these services to the most remote areas of the country.

Law 1100 of March 27, 1963, generalized Social Security in our country and included the following concerning maternity leave:
a) extended the benefits to all working mothers-to-be in both state and private sectors;
b) guaranteed a 12-week pre- and post-natal paid leave of absence;
c) granted every working mother one hour a day, within her regular working hours, for breast-feeding and caring for her baby;
d) provided whatever services and material kinds the motherto-be and her baby might need during her pregnancy and until mother and child are sent home from the maternity hospital; and
e) granted a subsidy in cash to working mothers who gave birth without making use of state hospitals.

Moreover, the broad and accelerated general development of the country attained by the Revolution, especially in the field of public health, made it possible that on January 16, 1974, law 1263, on working women’s maternity, be enacted.

The draft was drawn up by a special commision composed of representatives of the Ministry of Labor, the Ministry of Public Health, the Central Organization of Cuban Trade Unions, the Federation of Cuban Women, the Children’s Daycare Centers, the Children’s Institute and the Ministry of Education. A number of changes were made and the draft enriched by the suggestions made by working women when it was discussed and analyzed by the people.

Among other things, Law 1263:
a) increases the benefits of maternity leave, in recognition of women’s contributions to the construction of socialist society;
b) guarantees medical care during pregnancy, at birth and during the post-natal period;
c) guarantees medical care for the mother and the new-born child;
d) extends the period of paid maternity leave to 18 weeks, 12 of them after birth. In case of multiple pregnancy or errors in predicting the date of birth, this period is ex-tended another two weeks; and
e) guarantees an additional non-paid leave of absence for those mothers who cannot go to work because they have to stay at home to take care of their children.

This Law is an example of the level of development reached by our country in the field of public health and affirms how the rights proclaimed in this field have been put into effect.

This booklet includes the full text of Law 1263 and its regulations.


I, OSVALDO DORTICOS TORRADO, President of the Republic of Cuba, HEREBY PROCLAIM: That the Council of Ministers has approved and I have signed the following:

WHEREAS: Studies made on problems pertaining to working women, especially those relating to maternity, counsel the enactment of new legislation in order to grant the maximum guarantee to all maternity rights which, although recognized and provided for by Social Security Law No. 1100 of March 27, 1963, should be reconsidered on the basis of present-day medical and scientific principles.

WHEREAS: It is a primary interest of the Revolutionary Government to give special attention to the working mother since, in addition to her valuable contribution to society in the procreation and education of children, she also fulfills her social duty by working.

WHEREAS: A successful pregnancy as well as the delivery and the future health of the child require the adoption of adequate measures on the part of the pregnant woman, as an ineluctable duty toward her child and society.

WHEREAS: To secure the above-mentioned measures, it is necessary to ensure medical attention and rest to the working woman during her pregnancy, the breastfeeding of the newborn during the first months of life which will protect him from disease and favor the development of strong emotional bonds between mother and child, and the systematic medical examination of the child by a pediatrician during his first year of life.

WHEREAS: In our country all medical and hospital services, including pharmaceutical and hospital dietary services related to maternity are guaranteed free of charge to all the population. This makes it necessary to establish additional legislation on the enjoyment of said rights by the working woman or the wife or the companion of a worker.

THEREFORE: By virtue of the authority vested on them, the Council of Ministers resolves to dictate the following:

LAW No. 1263

Scope and Protection

Article 1. The present Law comprises the working woman and protects her maternity, guaranteeing and facilitating, in a special manner, her medical attention during pregnancy, her rest before and after delivery, the breastfeeding and care of the children as well as a financial aid in those cases specified in these provisions.

Paid Leave

Article 2. Every pregnant working woman, regardless of type of work will be obliged to stop working on the 34th week of pregnancy, and will have the right to a leave of absence of 18 weeks, which will include 6 weeks before delivery and 12 weeks after delivery. This leave will be paid as determined by this Law, provided that the working woman meets the requirements stated in Article 11.

The Ministry of Labour, at the proposal of the Central Organization of Cuban Trade Unions, will regulate exceptional situations in those places of work whose special characteristics, according to medical and scientific criteria, make it necessary that working women take prenatal leave for longer periods than those established by this Law.

Article 3. In cases of multiple pregnancy, the working woman will be obliged to stop working on the 32nd week of pregnancy, extending to eight weeks the period of her paid leave before delivery.

Article 4. If delivery does not take place during the period established for the prenatal leave, this leave will be extended to the date on which delivery takes place and the extended time period will be paid for up to two weeks.

Article 5. If delivery takes place before the expiry of the prenatal leave, this leave will cease and the working woman will begin her postnatal leave.

Article 6. If delivery takes place before the 34th week of pregnancy, or before the 32nd week in the case of multiple pregnancy, the leave will include only the postnatal period.

Article 7. The working woman will be guaranteed a post-natal leave of six weeks necessary for her recovery even when because of adverse circumstances of accident or acquired or congenital diseases, the child dies at birth or during the first four weeks after birth.

Article 8. If the working woman, because of complications during delivery, requires a longer period of recovery beyond the postnatal leave, she will have the right to receive the subsidy for illness as established in the Social Security Law.

Accidents of Pregnancy

Article 9. Accidents of pregnancy are those complications relative to pregnancy or diseases acquired during pregnancy which require absolute bed rest by doctor’s order, with or without hospitalization. Accidents of pregnancy which occur before the 34th week will give the working woman the right to subsidy for illness as established in the Social Security Law.

Financial Aid

Article 10. The financial aid that the working woman will receive during her maternity leave will be equal to the weekly average of salaries and subsidies she has received during the twelve months immediately prior to the leave. This aid will never be under ten pesos a week.

Article 11. In order to have the right to receive the paid maternity leave established by this Law, it will be indispensable that the working woman has an expedient in due form, exception made in the case of administrative negligence, and worked not less than 75 days in the twelve months immediately prior to the leave. However, even when the working woman does not fulfill these requirements, she will have the right to receive the complementary leaves established in the following chapter.

Complementary Maternity Leave

Article 12. During pregnancy and up to the 34th week, the working woman will have the right to six days or twelve halfdays of paid leave for her medical and dental care prior to delivery.

Article 13. In order to guarantee the care and development of the child during his first year of life, the working women will have the right every month to one day off, with pay, to take her child for a pediatric check-up.

Unpaid Leave

Article 14. The working mother will have the right to an unpaid leave for the purpose of taking care of her children, under the terms and conditions established by this Law.

. . .

THEREFORE: I command that this Law be fulfilled and enforced in all its parts.

SIGNED, at the Palace of the Revolution, in Havana, on January 14th, 1974.


Fidel Castro Ruz
Prime Minister

Oscar Fernandez
Padilla Minister of Labour


Randall, Margaret, Appendix in Women in Cuba: Twenty Years Later, Smyrna Press, 1981.

How to Cite This Source

"Gender and Health in Latin America: Law, Maternity Leave (Cuba)," in World History Commons, [accessed December 10, 2023]