Know Your Rights About Maternity Leave in South Africa

Do you have a baby on the way? Too scared to mention it to your colleagues or boss for fear of discrimination or dismissal? Sadly, too many businesses still discriminate against women falling pregnant.

But did you know that, if you are dismissed, retrenched, or lose out on a promotion because you fell pregnant, you could be entitled to up to 24 months of compensation or more? Yes, an employer might have to cough up if they do not follow the rules to the letter.

Today’s employers need to be mindful of the way they treat pregnant women in the workplace. In terms of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), pregnant women in South Africa have rights that are guaranteed by the South African Constitution. Businesses have to respect these rights. Not only do female employees have the right to bear children when they want but they also have the right to maternity leave by law. If you are feeling insecure about your job and rights, there is no need to worry. But to ease your mind, here are seven important things about maternity leave and maternity pay in South Africa you should know:

  1. An expecting employee may take at least four consecutive months’ maternity leave, which may start four weeks before birth.
  2. An employee may not work for six weeks after the birth of a child unless approved by a doctor.
  3. If you fall ill while pregnant, you could, on medical advice, take maternity leave earlier and for longer.
  4. If you suffer a miscarriage during the third trimester of pregnancy or your child is stillborn, the BCEA entitles you to six weeks of maternity leave after the miscarriage or stillbirth.
  5. Maternity-leave pay is still a contentious issue locally. Although labour legislation provides substantial protection for pregnant employees, maternity payment is at the discretion of your employer.
  6. If you only get unpaid maternity leave, you can claim maternity benefits from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) for up to four months.
  7. If your employer refuses to reinstate you after maternity leave, you have recourse at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA) and a very strong case for compensation.


Unfortunately, pregnant women are bullied and discriminated against all the time – not only in South Africa but all over the world. But you should know that it is your constitutional right to fall pregnant and that any form of discrimination is taken very seriously in terms of South African labour law. If you feel like you are being bullied or victimised for falling pregnant, get in touch with us today.

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