How South Africa’s maternity leave compares internationally

Posted on February 4th, 2019

This is what maternity leave looks like around the world.

Maternity leave in South Africa

There’s a country where moms are allowed to take one whole year of maternity leave to spend with their babies – and they don’t even have to sacrifice their salaries to do it.

In fact, two countries do this: Denmark and Serbia both give new moms a year of maternity leave at full pay.

Serbian moms get a year off for each of their first two babies and then two years off for the third and every subsequent child. Moms also get two years off if they have multiple births.

Scandinavian countries lead the way in parental leave with Denmark offering moms a month of pregnancy leave, plus 14 weeks’ maternity leave and then 32 weeks’ parental leave that can be split between both parents.

In Sweden, the allowance for maternity leave is the longest of all countries (about 69 weeks), but this is transferrable, so if a new mom is craving a little intellectual stimulation, she can decide to go back to work after eight weeks, and dad can look after the little one for the remaining time. Plus the government pays 80% of your salary for 390 days and a lump sum for the remaining days.
infographicCredit: via Living and Loving

0% maternity leave pay

In contrast, there are nine countries in the world without a national law mandating at least some paid maternity leave. These include the US, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Micronesia, according to the Full Participation Report by McGill University in Canada.

In South Africa, moms are entitled to four months’ maternity leave, including a month’s leave before the baby’s birth if needed, but companies are not under a legal obligation to remunerate employees during this time.

South African moms who contribute to the Department of Labour’s Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) are eligible for 38% to 58% of their salary, capped at a maximum gross salary of R14,872. According to UIF Matters this works out as follows:

  • If you earn R14,872 or more per month you will receive about R5,651 per month. You cannot receive more than this amount.
  • If you earn R5,000 per month you can expect to receive R2,065 per month.

Dads now get 10 days parental leave in South Africa

President Cyril Ramaphosa officially signed the Labour Laws Amendment Bill into law late last year (2018).

Essentially, the new Act states that any employee who wasn’t entitled to maternity leave will now be permitted to take 10 days’ parental leave, which will be paid out of the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF). The Act also covers adoption leave and commissioning parental leave. A single parent- irrespective of gender- of a child under the age of two is allowed 10 consecutive days of parental leave, and if there are two adoptive parents, one will be entitled to adoption leave and the other to parental leave of 10 days. The same provision is made for commissioning parents in a surrogate motherhood agreement.

“The law needs to develop further to give parents a choice about who will use the leave benefits and remove the financial barriers that prevent dads from participating. Both men and women pay UIF in SA, so they should be entitled to the same benefits. Many companies also offer women paid maternity leave benefits, but not necessarily men,” states Jackie Nagtegaal, LAW FOR ALL’s Managing Director. Mothers in South Africa are entitled to 4 months maternity leave, while fathers only receive 10 days. Not only does this reinforce stereotypes about which partner should take care of a child, it often negatively impacts a woman’s career.

ALSO SEE: Budgeting for maternity leave

The best companies for new parents

In a bid to retain top talent and fill the void left by zero or low governmental parental leave and pay, some forward-thinking companies have announced groundbreaking policies for maternity and paternity leave.

In the US, Netflix has introduced an unlimited leave policy for new moms and dads. This allows them to take off as much time as they need during the first year after a child’s birth or adoption – all fully paid.

When they’re ready to return to work, Netflix parents can return part-time, full-time or return and then take time off as needed. Back at work, parents are entitled to the company’s normal unlimited holiday leave.

Virgin Management in the UK allows parents, including adoptive parents and irrespective of gender, up to 100% of their basic salary for 52 weeks.

In South Africa, Pick n Pay gives moms 11 months of paid maternity leave and dads get eight days of paid paternity leave, but can also share maternity leave with mothers if both parents have worked at the company for more than eight months.

Sharing parental leave

In the UK, the Shared Parental Leave policy, introduced in 2015, gives parents the option of sharing 50 weeks of parental leave, following the first two weeks after the birth of a child and are even allowed to take some of the time off together.

Under Shared Parental Leave, whoever takes the leave will receive 90% of their average weekly earnings for the first six weeks, after which it will be 90% or £139.78 (approximately R2 715) – whichever is lower – for 33 weeks. The remaining 13 weeks of leave entitlement, if taken, is unpaid.

Forward-thinking maternity leave policies

Paid maternity leave in France is based on the number of kids you have. So, for example, you get 16 weeks’ fully paid leave for your first or second child, 26 weeks’ for a third, 34 weeks’ for twins and 46 weeks’ leave for triplets.

In Sweden, parental leave can be taken up until a child turns eight and parents can accumulate leave for multiple children. In addition, parents are legally allowed to reduce their normal working hours by up to 25% until the child turns eight.

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About Living And Loving Staff

Our experienced editors work with trained journalists and qualified experts to compile accurate, insightful and helpful information about pregnancy, birth, early childhood development and parenting. Our content is reviewed regularly by our panel of advisors, which include medical doctors and healthcare professionals.