Decoding maternity leave, UIF and going back to work

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Decoding maternity leave, UIF and going back to work

Recently our CEO and Founder Phillipa Geard (PG) sat down for a radio/podcast interview with Jolandi Becker (JB)- presenter of Bump and Beyond to chat about Maternity Leave, UIF and going back to work. The interview was broadcast on CHAIFM, click here to listen to it.

Here are some nuggets of wisdom gleaned from the conversation.

JB: Hello Phillipa, it’s lovely to have you here with us, you are such a wealth of knowledge about all things working women, and especially working mothers here in South Africa.
PG: Hi Jolandi, the pleasure is all mine, thank you for inviting me.

JB: Now, maternity leave and UIF are murky waters for many. Let’s dive straight into some questions and shed some light on the subject for our listeners.
PG: Absolutely!

JB: Firstly, when must I notify my employer of my pregnancy?
PG: The BCEA states that employees must inform their employer of the need for maternity leave at least one month before the maternity leave is due to commence.

JB: How long will the duration of maternity leave be?
PG: The Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) (Section 25) entitles the pregnant employee to at least four consecutive months' unpaid maternity leave. Some employees extend this. No employee can work for six weeks after the birth of a child, unless a medical person gives the okay.

JB: Will I get paid while on maternity leave?
PG: The employer does not have to pay the employee while on maternity leave, as the employee qualifies for unemployment benefits. However, there is nothing preventing the employer from paying the employee, provided that this payment is declared on the UI-19 form submitted when the employee goes on maternity leave if collecting UIF.

JB: Can an employee carry over maternity leave, meaning take it at different intervals?
PG: Section 25 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), states that an employee is entitled to four consecutive months of maternity leave. “Consecutive” is to follow one after another in uninterrupted succession. So maternity leave cannot be broken up.

JB: Can an employee give notice while on maternity leave?
PG: An employee could resign while on maternity leave, provided that she works her full notice period upon completing her maternity leave. If she does not do so the employer can sue her for breach of contract.

JB: What if I have a pregnancy related illness before I take leave?
PG: You must take it as part of sick leave.

JB: Will I still receive my bonus?
PG: This is governed by your employment contract, and you should not be discriminated against by going on maternity leave. If it is performance based, then the bonus could be prorated based on your performance outcomes.

JB: What is UIF?
PG: As an employed female contributor to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), you can apply for maternity benefits when you go on maternity leave. To qualify for the benefits, you must be receiving less than your normal wages while you are on maternity leave. Broadly speaking, Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) gives short-term relief to workers when they become unemployed or are unable to work because of maternity leave. If you have been contributing to UIF, you are eligible for a maternity benefit of up to a maximum amount of 60% of your remuneration (lowest amount of replacement income is 38%) depending on the level of your income. Benefits are paid for a maximum duration of 17.32 weeks (121 days)

JB: So, does UIF pay my full salary while I’m on maternity leave?
PG: No, up to 38 - 60% of your salary, but in practice no one knows.

JB: How much Maternity UIF can I claim?
PG: You can expect to receive somewhere between 38% – 58% of your monthly salary (up to a salary limit of R17 712 per month). The less you earn, the bigger the percentage. If you are paid hourly and your salary fluctuates, then you can claim on the average of the last 6 months.

JB: How do I apply for UIF?
PG: Before you can claim, you should get the following documents ready:

  • 13-digit bar-coded ID or passport
  • form UI-2.8 for banking details
  • form UI-2.7
  • form UI-2.3 (application form)
  • medical certificate from a doctor or birth certificate of the baby
  • form UI-4 (follow-up form)

Go to the Department of Labour center, and get the correct forms. Or alternatively, apply for your claim online on the uFiling website - this is a FREE service offered by the UIF. You start by registering and activating your profile and then follow the steps from there. Some of the forms need to be filled in by your employer and some by your medical practitioner. I would strongly advise getting a person who specialises in dealing with UIF to help you get the correct forms and information.

JB: When will I get my money?
PG: It takes between 3-6 weeks from the date the application was submitted for the application to be approved and for the first payment to be made. Note that payment is only made for each day that proof can be provided that you are on maternity leave. You will be notified once the claim is approved AND according to the Western Cape Government - "If everything is in order, you should start getting money from the fund within eight weeks of registering. The money will then be paid every four weeks, until all the benefits are used up." In reality, these payments can take months to be released. My best advice is to try and have savings for the maternity months and not be completely dependent on the UIF payout.

JB: What are your top tips for going back to work after maternity leave?
PG: Start thinking about the following:

  • Breastfeeding / expressing / transitioning for your baby onto a bottle
  • Child care / support systems after baby is born
  • Back up - should you or your child fall sick
  • See if there are opportunities for flexibility with your employer. I’m talking about remote/hybrid or even part-time and flexible options for work

JB: Thank you Phillipa, all this information has been very helpful.
PG: It’s a pleasure Jolandi, happy to be a help to women and especially mothers in the workplace.

You can listen to the podcast on Maternity Leave, UIF and going back to work here.