Women in South Africa have babies all the time. Many of these women are working while they’re pregnant. But what are you to do when the time comes to have your baby? Your life is going to change radically over the next few months and you don’t need extra worries to cloud your beautiful expectations.
Your rights are protected
In South Africa, pregnant women are protected by the law. These laws regulate maternity leave and protect women against discrimination related to pregnancy.
The Basic Conditions of Employment Act: The Code of Good Practice on the Protection of Employees During Pregnancy and After the Birth of a Child was drawn up to protect women who work during pregnancy and return to work while they are still nursing.
Will I lose my job?
Don’t worry. South African Legislation states that you cannot be discriminated against or dismissed on account of your pregnancy. You are therefore entitled to return to the job you left before going on maternity leave.
When should I notify my employer?
While pregnant, your employer must make sure there is nothing in your working environment that could pose a danger to you or your unborn child. However, if your employer is unaware of your pregnancy, he/she cannot inform you about things that might pose a risk to your unborn child or take the necessary steps to protect you from potential hazards.
So it is to your own benefit to tell them as soon as possible after you have found out. Also, when possible, tell your employer when you plan on taking leave, when your due date is and when you’ll be back at work. This will give both you and your manager the chance to get a proper plan in place for while you’re away. Also, contact your HR department and find out exactly how maternity leave works in your company. Be sure to make arrangements so that you can attend antenatal (during pregnancy) and postnatal (after birth) appointments at your clinic or hospital as required.
How much maternity leave am I legally entitled to?
You are entitled to at least 4 consecutive months of maternity leave. You may decide to start taking it one month before your due date, or even earlier if there are valid health reasons for you to do so. You may even decide to wait until the last week before your due date, depending on the advice of your doctor.
Sadly, in this country your employer is not legally obliged to pay you while you are on maternity leave. Women can, however, claim from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF). Visit the Basic Guide to UIF Maternity Benefits for the low-down on everything or visit your nearest labour centre with your ID book or passport, banking details and a doctor’s certificate. If you’re physically unable to do so, you can send somebody on your behalf.
When should I return to work?
You may not go back to work within 6 weeks after the birth of your child. If you are a workaholic you may do so only IF your doctor or midwife says it is safe.
Will they cope without me?
It’s your manager’s responsibility to redistribute your tasks among your colleagues or appoint a temporary replacement. However, being a proactive employee is always a good thing – you could present your manager with a proposal on how your work could be reassigned during your absence. Having a maternity leave plan ready will also reassure your employer that you do plan to return to work after your baby has been born.
Would I have to jump straight back in when I’m back at work, or could I ask for less strenuous work for a while?
An employee can insist on less strenuous work if she can prove that her present job negatively affects her or her child’s health, if she works a night shift, and if it is practical for her employer. This is a very complex issue, so refer to the Code of Good Practice on the Protection of Employees During Pregnancy and After the Birth of a Child.
Can my baby’s father/my partner get paternity leave?
Yes – but it is not called “paternity leave”. A father/partner can take “family responsibility leave” when their child is born.If he/she has been employed for at least four months, works at least four days a week and 24 hours a month for the same employer, he/she is allowed to put in three days of “family responsibility leave”.
What about a miscarriage or a stillborn child?
Women who have miscarriages or give birth to stillborn babies in their third trimester are entitled to six weeks’ leave afterwards, regardless of whether they have already gone on maternity leave.