How to prepare financially for maternity leave



Not too long ago, if you were of child-bearing age some employers would not even consider you for a job

Today, organisations are much more ‘mom-friendly’, and some even provide their staff with day-care facilities. If you are planning to have a child, your working arrangements are just one of many things to consider - if you are fortunate, you may get paid maternity leave.

But if you don’t, you need to ensure that you can live on your partner’s income, or that you have enough money to adequately see you through, while you take time to care for your new-born.

“Some mothers would ideally like to take a year off work, but the family needs the extra income,” says Nolene Parboo, Head of Savings and Investments at Standard Bank. “Having a full-time job and young children can be stressful, but if you put your mind - and pocket - to it, taking off extra time to raise a child can be achieved.”

Can you afford a break?

To clearly determine if you can afford a break, have a good look at your finances; you may be surprised at the inefficiencies that exist in your spending.

One of your first steps is to ascertain how much money is actually being added to the family coffers from your salary. For example, if your take-home pay is R8 000 per month, and day care is R2 000, petrol R1 500 and clothing accounts come to R1 000, your actual contribution is actually R3 500 per month.

That would certainly take care of a few expenses, but often when both partners work they eat out at least twice a week and don’t think too much about spending money on ‘nice-to-haves’.

So, in the final analysis, you may discover that the money you are earning has no real impact on your finances. However, if you give up a few luxuries and settle some debt before you give birth, you may find that one income will comfortably cover your expenses while still maintaining your family savings plan.  

Life insurance is vital

“One vital issue you need to take into account when examining your maternity budget is life insurance,” adds Mrs. Parboo. “Should anything happen to you, you would want to know that your child will be financially secure. For this reason, life insurance premiums should feature as a ‘non-negotiable’ monthly payment, so you need to make sure you budget for it.”

How much leave are you allowed?

You have a right to four months maternity leave when you have a baby, but your employer is not obliged to give you paid leave.

While you are on leave you can claim maternity benefits if you have been contributing to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), and you can claim between 38% and 60% of your remuneration, depending on the level of your income. Benefits are paid for a maximum duration of 17.32 weeks (121 days).

Women who want to claim from the UIF need to go to the nearest labour centre with their ID book or passport, banking details and medical certificate.

Keep your work skills up to date

“If you are planning to take more than a year off, make sure that you keep your work skills up to date,” advises Mrs. Parboo. “The world of work continues to advance at a rapid rate, and the last thing you want is to struggle to find a job because your skills are outdated. While being a full-time mother may be appealing, there may come a time when you have no option but to work; your life circumstances may change because of divorce, death or disability. It’s important to consider all the scenarios.”

Part-time job?

If you need to earn money, an option to consider is a part-time job. Fortunately, advances in technology mean there are many jobs that do not require you to be in an office for a typical eight-hour workday. The benefit of part-time work is that you keep your skills current, so when you decide to return to full-time work it will be easier to find a position.

“If you optimise your family spending, chances are high that your maternity break will not mean austerity measures and you will be able to get the best of both worlds; the time and money to spoil your tiny new addition,” concludes Mrs. Parboo.

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