The Department of Labour has a basic guide to maternity leave law and common benefits that will help you to plan your time away from work. Pregnant women in South Africa are entitled to four months maternity leave. One month should be before their due date and three months should be after the child is born. This is detailed in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and can be consulted at any time. This law applies to most employers but there are some exceptions which are noted in the law. This means that Mom’s don’t have to work immediately before their baby is born, and for a few months afterwards and will not lose their job for their time off. In fact, the law specifies that mothers may not return to work less than six weeks after having their baby unless approved by their doctors.
Maternity leave law and common benefits are different for some employees and the list of these employees is noted in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. These include members of the South African Secret Service, the National Intelligence Agency and or the National Defence force. Other workers who are not entitled to these benefits include unpaid volunteers working for charity. If you are employed in one of these fields it is important to approach your employer in order to negotiate leave that is acceptable for both you and them. Pregnant women are protected by the law, as are employers. If any disputes occur the Department of Labour should be approached as soon as possible to try and solve the issue.
It is very important to note that this law also stipulates that mothers who work in dangerous conditions (for example in a mine, or chemical factory) may not perform the job if it is unsafe for the unborn child. If you are involved in a dangerous industry it is important to be aware of maternity leave law and common benefits so that you and your baby are protected and supported.
Rights for Pregnant Women in the Workplace
Rights for pregnant women in the workplace can sometimes be abused and therefore it is important to be made aware of what you are legally obliged to. In South Africa a pregnant employee is entitled to four consecutive months unpaid maternity leave. What is important to note is that this leave may commence at any time from four weeks before the expected due date or from a date determined by a medical practitioner. Therefore should your employer be making claims that you have to work up until the day before the due date then you are well within your rights to take legal action against your employer.
If you are unsure of the rights for pregnant women in the workplace and you feel that you are being taken advantage of by your company or employer then the best thing that you can do is to contact a legal practitioner who can advise you correctly of your rights. One law that companies seem to ignore is the fact that no employee may work for six weeks after the birth unless a medical practitioner certifies that it is safe to do so. It is important to note that this section of the law applies regardless of if you give birth to a healthy baby, if you miscarry, or if you give birth to a stillborn child.
Lastly, the only obligation on the part of the employee is that she must notify her employer in writing of the date on which she intends to commence her maternity leave within four weeks of the date in question. For those of you who have had your baby and who choose to return to work then you are also protected. You cannot be employed to work in an environment that could be hazardous to the mother of the child and should you be required to work at night then there are laws to protect you in that regard to. The most important thing to note is that you cannot be dismissed for merely being pregnant and should this be the case, then you can take your employer to the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration). It is important that before having your child that you find out all you can about the rights for pregnant women in the workplace.