Navigating the often-unavoidable impacts of your pregnancy on your employment

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08 Jun 2021

For many women, whilst becoming pregnant brings an incredible amount of joy, it also comes with significant fear and insecurity as to how your employer will handle the news. You may ask yourself many questions such as “will I still have a job to come back to?”, “I am on unpaid maternity leave, can I come back after a month or two?” and “will I be treated differently?”.

The most important thing to note is that being pregnant does not strip you of your right to freedom from unfair discrimination nor your right to fair labour practices. Both current and prospective employers cannot discriminate against you based on pregnancy and any such adverse treatment on this basis is automatic unfair discrimination in terms of your rights contained in Section 9 of The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. Employers are also obliged to ensure that the working environment is suitable and non-hazardous for pregnant employees. This includes certain allowances that ensure there are no penalties for frequent bathroom-breaks, morning sickness and general fatigue. Section 26 read with Section 7 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act provides further insight into the obligations of your employer.

As soon as you are comfortable to disclose your pregnancy, it is advisable to inform your employer to ensure that he/she has sufficient notice to make the necessary arrangements. After that, notice should be given to your employer with the dates that you will be commencing maternity leave and subsequently returning to work. Section 25 of the BCEA provides that pregnant employees are entitled to no less than four months maternity leave. It is important to note that you are not entitled to paid maternity leave but merely four months of unpaid maternity leave. It is therefore beneficial to find out the maternity benefits and policies before commencing employment. Should you wish to waive the minimum maternity leave and return to work earlier than scheduled, you need to provide a note from your medical practitioner stating that you are capable of doing so. Employers cannot force you to shorten your maternity leave.

Should you feel that you have been unfairly dismissed or  that you are a victim of unfair labour practices, the CCMA is well-equipped to deal with and resolve the dispute. Pregnancy and motherhood are challenging in their own rite. For assistance with any of your legal matters and/or CCMA referrals, contact SchoemanLaw.

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(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
Gabriella Keeble

Gabriella Keeble completed her LLB at the University of the Western Cape. Gabriella joined a boutique commercial and insolvency firm in February 2019 as a Candidate Attorney. She gained extensive... Read more about Gabriella Keeble


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