A vast majority of women fall pregnant whilst working. Often they are not aware of all the laws pertaining to pregnancy in the workplace, as well as maternity leave after the baby is born. Thankfully the South African laws (all 6 relevant ones) are on the employee’s side, and the employer has a large amount of responsibilities surrounding this topic. There are a few responsibilities that the employee must do, and this article shall cover the former and the latter. Most importantly a pregnant employee or a mother on maternity leave cannot be dismissed on account of her pregnancy/ maternity leave. This amounts to automatically unfair dismissal and then the CCMA or Labour Courts come into place.
Firstly an employer cannot discriminate against a pregnant woman in the workplace, as well as after the employee gets back from maternity leave. This is stated in the “Code of good practice on the protection of employees during pregnancy and after the birth of her child”. Whilst the pregnant lady is still working the employer is required to implement measures to ensure the safety of the mom/unborn child. They are also required to have a list of jobs the pregnant lady can do without causing any injury to the unborn child. Employers are also obliged to assess any risks to the health and safety of the pregnant mom.
Secondly once the baby is born, the employee is entitled to 4 months maternity leave. Please take note that companies are NOT required by the law to pay the employee for this maternity leave. The company may have a policy stating they will pay for it, so scrutinize your contract and company policies. The pregnant employee must notify the employer in writing when the maternity leave will start. The law states that the pregnant employee can begin her maternity leave 1 month before the due date.
Thirdly the employee CANNOT go back to work for at least the first 6 weeks after the baby is born. This law can only be changed if a doctor or midwife says it is safe to do so. This is stated in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, section 25.
As a pregnant lady you may be worried about your financial state, but here’s is some help you can use. You may claim UIF maternity benefits which amount to approximately 30%-50% of your normal wage and it is not taxed. Make certain you apply for this at least 8 weeks before due date, and you can claim up to 17 weeks of UIF maternity benefits.
If you are pregnant or on maternity leave and you are unsure about your entitlements and responsibilities, look at “The Basic Conditions of Employment Act” as well as the“Code of good practice on the protection of employees during pregnancy and after the birth of her child”. These will guide you swiftly through the most magical time of your life, ensuring your protection and your baby’s protection at all times. Good luck and 4aKid is there with you along your journey.