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Must I Grant Staff Maternity Leave?

Frequently Asked Questions About Maternity Leave


One of your staff members is pregnant – where does this leave you, the employer? Read on to find out more…

What is Maternity Leave?

It’s a period of absence granted to mothers shortly before and after the birth of a child. Workers may take such leave one month before their due date, or earlier or later as agreed or required for health reasons. They may not return to work within six weeks of giving birth, unless a doctor or midwife says it’s safe for them to do so.

Are Staff Entitled to Maternity Leave?

Yes, says the South African Department of Labour. As stipulated in Section 25 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), 1997, female workers are entitled to at least four consecutive months of maternity leave. However, while they’re entitled to maternity leave – without fear of losing their jobs – it is not a requirement that workers be paid during this time. Many companies do, however, offer maternity benefit packages to their employees as a means of retaining talent and promoting good industrial relations. Women can claim maternity benefits from the Unemployment Insurance Fund.

It’s worth noting that, according to the BCEA:

  • It’s illegal to fire or discriminate against pregnant women
  • A worker who is pregnant or nursing may not do work that is unsafe for her or her child.