The basics of maternity leave
A labour lawyer lays out the things every pregnant employee – and her employer – needs to know.
All female employees are entitled to up to 4 consecutive months of unpaid maternity leave in case of pregnancy and birth. An employee may elect to begin maternity leave at any time from 4 weeks before the expected arrival date.

Maternity leave may be arranged to suit her particular circumstances. She is not required to take the entire 4 months. If she is fit and strong, has support system, and wishes to return to work early to make up for lost income, this is her choice. If it is within 6 weeks of the birth, a doctor or midwife must issue a certificate saying that she is fit to resume duty.

Know this about maternity leave
  • The employee should inform the employer in writing 4 weeks before the date she proposes starting maternity leave. The notification should also state the date on which she intends to return.
  • A woman who has a miscarriage during the third trimester of pregnancy, or has a stillbirth, is entitled to 6 weeks’ maternity leave after this event.
  • Maternity leave is unpaid.
  • No woman may be employed in an occupation or job that might threaten her or the expected child’s health. Similarly, a nursing mother may not work in the circumstances that would constitute a health risk to her or the child. This includes night work. In such cases the employer should attempt to find suitable alternative work at no less remuneration if the employer may reasonably do so. If such work is not available, then the employee would be compelled to take unpaid leave.
  • In cases where the employee wishes to take maternity leave sooner because of complications or to return to work prior to six weeks after the confinement, then a doctor or midwife may issue a medical certificate. Note that this is the only time that a midwife may issue a medical certificate.  It seems that the reasoning for this is that much of the prenatal and postnatal health care is provided by the clinic system.
  • There is no limitation on the number of times that an employee may take maternity leave. Nor may the employer put any service qualifications on it. However, in cases where the employer elects to make some form of payment for leave taken, it may set whatever policy limitations or conditions on the payment it wishes.

This is an extract from Labour Law in Practice by Andrew Levy (Macmillan).

Do you think 4 months of maternity leave is enough?


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