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Maternity leave to the benefit of all

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Maternity leave to the benefit of all

Employees who are on maternity leave can increase the workload for the rest of the division and in certain situations it is not viable to appoint a temporary employee. However, pregnant women have the right to take maternity leave, but it comes with challenges for both the employee and the employer.


“Maternity leave can be implemented to the benefit of both employer and employee,” says Anja Hartman, HR Director of Sage VIP. Hartman shares some insights based on her experience, as at Sage VIP approximately 3% of the female employees are on maternity leave at any given time.

Create a maternity leave policy tailored to the business culture

There are certain labour law specifications that need to be taken into consideration; however companies can create a customised policy that will benefit both the employer and the employee. In our organisation the following has been successfully instituted:


  • Leave period: We provide four months of maternity leave, partially paid. The four months period is followed by a ‘phase-in’ process, where the new mother only has to work 20 hours a week. During this period she is paid per hour.


  • Impact of maternity leave on annual leave: There is no impact and the employee’s leave days will accrue as normal.


  • After 36 weeks of pregnancy: According to the law, after 36 weeks a pregnant woman needs to provide a medical certificate to prove she is fit to work. Pregnancy also brings challenges for sales staff who have to travel. At Sage VIP we have stated that it remains the employee’s choice to travel and we also give consultants the option of providing telephonic support to customers, after week 30 of their pregnancy.


  • Paternity leave: We provide five days leave for new fathers. However, our company is expanding into the rest of Africa and therefore we need to also take into consideration the labour laws of the other countries we operate in. For example, Kenya allows 10 days for paternity leave. Thus, if the Sage VIP employee is from Kenya, the father will be entitled to 10 days.


  • Breastfeeding: We have created comfortable and private facilities at our offices.


  • Resigning within the first month after returning to work: SageVIP’s policy specifies that when an employee chooses to take partially paid maternity leave they agree to work for the company for one year after returning from maternity leave. Should they resign before the one year period they acknowledge that they will be responsible for repaying a portion of the remuneration.

    For example:

    The employee’s salary is R10 000 per month. While on maternity leave, she receives only 80% of her salary, which amounts to R8 000 per month. Before going on maternity leave, she signs an agreement wherein she undertakes to work for Sage VIP for one year after returning from maternity leave. For the four months her total salary is R32 000. The employee returns from maternity leave and decides to resign after three months.  This means that she will owe the company (R32 000 ÷12) X 9 = R24 000.


  • Adoption and maternity leave: The adoptive parent is also entitled to four months of maternity leave. In cases where the adopted child is not a baby, the employee can agree with the employer to take maternity leave. However, UIF may not be claimed if the child is older than two.


  • Premature babies: If the baby is born prematurely and needs to stay in the hospital for a period of time, the mother can decide to return to work and her maternity leave then starts after her baby is dismissed from hospital. However if she wants to return within the first six weeks after her baby’s birth, she needs a medical certificate to stipulate that she is fit for work.


  • Crèche facilities: We investigated this possibility at Sage VIP, but we decided not to pursue this due to operational and cost considerations. However, we provide 3G data cards to new mothers that need to work from home. These cards allow for direct access to the Sage VIP network.


The challenges of returning to work full-time

For a new mother, returning from maternity leave can be overwhelming. She may feel unsure of herself and it may seem like everything has changed. In such cases the manager should have a mini-induction session with the mother and share all the important information that she might have missed.


At the same time, the rest of the division needs to realise the new child has an impact on their colleague’s life and they need to be sensitive to the emotions their colleague might experience in the first few weeks after returning to work. The mother has new responsibilities and challenges which need to be respected, especially when their child is ill. Our family responsibility leave policy caters for situations when working parents need to take care of their sick children.


How to deal with pregnant women and work interviews

This has always been a challenge and one cannot discriminate against the candidate. However, we would encourage candidates to be honest at all times with the potential employer so that a workable solution can be found.


How to claim UIF Maternity Benefits

Step one: Ensure you have the following documentation ready before going to the labour centre for the first time. All of the forms should be original documents and not photocopies.


  • UI – 19 forms: You have to get a completed UI-9 form or forms from all your employers for the previous four years. Note that this includes your current employer;
  • Your 13 digit bar-coded ID or Passport;
  • 2 X UI – 2.8 forms: These forms should be filled out and stamped by your bank. Also attach your latest bank statement or a letter from the bank stating that the account is yours and still active to each of the forms;
  • UI – 2.7 form: This should be completed by your current employer;
  • 2 X UI – 2.3 forms: These forms should be completed by both you and your doctor. Please do not date this form as the UIF office will date the form when they receive it;
  • 6 X UI-4 forms: These forms should also be completed by both you and your doctor. As with the UI-2.3, please do not date this form;
  • The birth certificate of your baby.


Step two: After you have gone on maternity leave, you can go to your nearest labour centre where they will assist you in registering so you are able to claim benefits.


Step three: After processing the forms, you will have to visit the labour centre once a month to claim your benefits. They will keep you informed if you need to submit any further information.


Step four: You are also welcome to visit the website for the Department of Labour, www.labour.gov.za for further information and copies of all forms.


Hartman concludes by saying, “At Sage VIP more than 70% of the workforce is made up by women and we have decided to change the maternity leave policy in order to increase the value proposition we offer to our female employees. The return on investment, especially in terms of loyalty, has been amazing.”

Last modified on Wednesday, 20 November 2013 10:35
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