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Would you be more flexible with your company's maternity leave policy if you reaped these benefits?

by , 17 November 2014
Here in South Africa, maternity leave is a contentious issue.

Employers cringe every time an employee announces her happy news. While employees often feel like they're getting the short end of the stick when it comes to what they get.

But here's the thing, small businesses need to know says Bloomberg.com: Being generous with your maternity leave policy can be a big plus for your business.

Here's why...


South African maternity leave benefits are lacklustre at best

According to South Africa's Basic Conditions of Employment Act, mothers are entitled to four consecutive months of maternity leave. This can begin four weeks before the birth and can either be paid or unpaid depending on your company's policy. In addition, new mothers are entitled to pay through UIF during this period. (This depending on how much she earns, is a maximum of 60% of her monthly salary.)
In contrast with Sweden's generous benefits – where mothers and fathers can share 16 months at home with their baby – that's pretty dismissal. 
And it's the reason labour experts say doing the bare minimum is a big mistake.
It makes your pregnant employees feel punished for having children. And this, in turn, breeds discontent, high staff turnover and high absentee rates. 
But a flexible maternity leave policy can change that…
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The benefits of a flexible maternity leave policy are huge

According to professor Suzan Lewis, who published a report to the UN's International Labour Association last month, small businesses should 'use their inherent flexibility to improve conditions for new parents'.
She adds 'small companies should consider letting new parents work from home, complete tasks outside normal working hours, or even pool with other local businesses to offer child care.'
Now this may sound costly, but Lewis says companies tend to 'overestimate the costs and underestimate potential gains, including happier workers, lower employee turnover, and less absenteeism.' In addition, she found paid maternity leave boosts productivity too.
But does it really benefit the company?
Pick 'n Pay says it does. 
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Is it hard to summarise all the information in the Labour laws and keep up with other regulations?
The Basic Conditions of Employment Act, the Labour Relations Act, and dozens of changes and resolutions of Government provisions and the Department of Labour often contradict each other. 
But the Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service provides quick access to comprehensive and professional information about labour legislation. Get the Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service today - and we'll keep you updated with the latest changes happening in the labour legislation

Pick 'n Pay: A shining example of a company benefiting from a flexible maternity leave policy 

Earlier this year, a conference between NGOs and trade unions revealed that this SA retailer gives its employees 11 months of maternity leave, nine of which are paid. 
It also gives fathers eight days' of paternity leave – something most fathers are forced to take as family responsibility leave. And, if both parents work at Pick 'n Pay, mothers and fathers can actually share the maternity leave period. 
The reason for this flexibility?
Well, according to Cosatu gender forum chair Sharone Daniels, an employee 'comes back more refreshed as her mind is at ease because the baby is bigger.' And the company benefits from this. Its workers tend to be more focused, happier and more productive. 
Sounds great, doesn't it? 
And while 11 months of maternity leave may not be feasible for your business, other options – like flexi-time and even work-from-home days for new parents – could be just what your business needs to retain staff when they've had a baby. 
So think about it. And remember, if you amend your company's maternity leave policy it must apply to all your employees. If it doesn't you'll land in hot water with Labour Court for unfair labour practice, warns the Labour Law for Managers team. 

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