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Labour Law Guidance Regarding Maternity Leave Rights in South Africa

As a female employee, you have the right to maternity leave. This also applies if you are a domestic worker. However, ignorance of your rights to maternity leave or the fear of losing your job if you ask for days off may mean getting dismissed because you’re pregnant. The law is on your side and should this happen to you, make use of our labour lawyers, working on a “no win, no fee” basis. Below are some of the basics regarding maternity leave to help you become informed about your rights. If you have already been dismissed or have not been allowed to take maternity leave according to the stipulations of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, contact our lawyers. They will assess your case and if it is strong enough to take further legal steps, they will work on a “no win, no fee” basis.

Notification to the employer

The law stipulates that you must provide your employer with a minimum of four weeks’ notice of your intention to take maternity leave. It is, however, recommended to do it earlier, to give the employer the chance to appoint someone on a temporary basis or to make other provisions for the period that you will be on leave. Note that employers don’t all give the same total of days off for maternity leave. It is thus best to confirm how many leave days you have and when the leave can commence.

Type of work when back at the office

You can request for less strenuous tasks for a short while upon return to work, if you can prove that the normal tasks negatively affect your health. This can be the case if you normally work night shifts. In this instance, you can ask to work day shifts for a while. Note that you will have to discuss the request with your employer, as it may not be practical for the employer and the law is not clear on the issue.

What the law states about the maternity leave period

You are entitled to a period of four consecutive months off for maternity leave. However, when it comes to payment, the employer is under no legal obligation to pay for the period. What you can do in such an instance is to claim UIF for the period.

How to claim UIF for the maternity leave period

Go to the nearest Department of Labour office with your bank details, the doctor’s certificate, proof of employment, and your ID, and submit your UIF claim. You can have someone do so on your behalf.

Paternity leave for the father

The child’s father can take only three days off per 12-month work cycle for family responsibility, and only if he has worked at the same employer for a period of more than four months. He must also have worked a minimum of four days per week for this period.

Timeframe for maternity leave commencement

You are entitled to take maternity leave from four weeks before the due date, but if your medical condition is of such a nature that working will negatively affect your health and the health of the unborn child, you can take maternity leave earlier. You can work until just before the birth date if your health allows it. The return date is normally six weeks after birth, but with your medical caregiver’s approval, you may return to work earlier.

Maternity leave for miscarriage

If you have a miscarriage in your third trimester or the baby is stillborn, you can still take the six weeks leave after this, regardless of whether you have been on maternity leave or not.

Contact us at or on (011) 234 2125 for professional legal advice and litigation assistance regarding dismissals related to maternity leave – on the “no win, no fee” basis.


NB: This article is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. You are advised to consult with us before using/relying on this information.

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