When am I entitled to Maternity Leave?
Female employees have a right to four months maternity leave when they are pregnant. By law your employer is not obliged to give you paid maternity leave, but you are entitled to four consecutive months of maternity leave. The maternity leave may begin at anytime from at least four weeks before the birth of the baby. The maternity leave may also be taken earlier if the woman's medical condition does not allow her to work. Six weeks leave has to be taken after confinement. A woman may join work earlier if a medical practitioner or midwife certifies that she is fit to return to work.
Can I get Maternity Benefits?
If you have been contributing to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) you can claim from the Maternity Benefit Fund.
If you have been contributing to UIF, you are eligible for a maternity benefit of up to a maximum amount of 60% of your remuneration (lowest amount of replacement income is 38%) depending on the level of your income. Benefits are paid for a maximum duration of 17.32 weeks (121 days). In the case of miscarriage in the third trimester or a stillborn child, contributor is entitled to maternity benefit for six weeks (Unemployment Insurance Act, Section 12, 13, 24, 2nd Schedule)
Your maternity leave can start any time from four weeks before the expected date of birth or on a date a doctor or midwife says is necessary for your health or that of your unborn child. You also may not work for six weeks after the birth of your child unless declared fit to do so by a doctor or midwife.
Breaking the news about your pregnancy to your employer might be a challenge. Don’t rush into it. Your employer’s response may not be what you expected and you need to be well prepared for any possible scenario.
How do I claim from the UIF (Unemployment Insurance Fund)?
Women who want to clain from the UIF need to go to the nearest labour centre with these documents: an ID book or passport, banking details, medical certificate. If the woman is too ill to go to the centre, she can send someone on her behalf.
Protection from Dismissals
There have been cases where women find themselves unemployed after maternity leave. This is illegal and goes against the South African Labour Relations Act (Basic Conditions of Employment Act ). You shouldn't be dismissed during the period of her pregnancy and maternity leave. Laws consider dismissal of an employee on account of her pregnancy, intended pregnancy, or other reasons related to her pregnancy, as automatically unfair. (Labour Relations Act, section 185-187)
Right to return to same position
Women are entitled to their jobs when returning from maternity leave and should not be discriminated against. Law considers it unfair dismissal if an employer does not allow an employee to resume work after availing her maternity leave. (Labour Relations Act, section 186)
And what about Adoption Leave?
The Unemployment Insurance Act 2001 provides for adoption benefits at the same rate and duration as maternity benefits. But whilst the BCEA makes provision for maternity leave, it makes no provision for adoption leave.
If your employer provides adoption leave as an entitlement, you are one of the privileged few in South Africa to get that. For example: Parliament provides four months paid leave; Stellenbosch University now also gives four months adoption leave.
At this point, negotiating for adoption leave is between individual employees and employers, usually through the HR department of a company.
Read more about Women and Work on Mywage South Africa.
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