Negotiating maternity leave

If you are employed you would have to think about how you would break the news about your pregnancy to your employer. 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.

Here are a few pointers:

  • Find out what your company’s policy is regarding maternity leave. This includes length, payment and whether you have options available to you. By law your company is not obliged to pay maternity leave. If you work for a company that does not offer maternity benefits, you can claim from the Maternity Benefit Fund if you have been contributing to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF).
  • How did your employer handle other pregnancies? This will tell you a lot about what response to expect.
  • Don’t rush into setting a date to go on leave. You may feel up to working right up to the due date early in pregnancy but as you get to the third trimester you will possibly decide to leave earlier. If you chop and change you will create the impression that you are disorganised and unprofessional.
  • If possible, keep your leave date open. You may deliver earlier or later than your due date.
  • Ask for more time off than you think you’ll need. Your baby may change your perception on things. You may decide to stay home longer and this will be difficult to arrange once you are already on leave. You can always return to work sooner if you wish to do so.
  • Make adequate preparations for hand-over to the person who will be filling in for you. The last thing you need is to worry about work while you are on leave and faced with the challenges of motherhood. Your colleagues will also be less resentful when you return if you have prepared properly for your absence.
  • If for any reason you feel that your rights are being violated, document all the events carefully in case you decide to take legal action.
  • Your partner should also enquire whether his company allows paternity leave. This is not required by law and is at the company’s discretion.

- (Ilse Pauw, Health24)

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