Working Mothers in the Workplace


There are a lot of expectations in the corporate world for anyone trying to find success, women in the workplace though have a little more to juggle.

A recent survey conducted by, showed that a staggering 69% of South African companies are not going to be hiring working mothers, even though our country’s Labour Law protects working moms against such acts of discrimination. “Working mothers are less committed. Working mothers are far less flexible. Working mothers’ skills are outdated and working mothers are going to take maternity leave as soon as you hire them!” these are some of the reasons given as to why they avoid hiring working moms.

The South African Labour Law has taken great strides in protecting women in the workplace. For instance, the law states that pregnant job seekers are under no obligation to inform potential employers of their condition. In fact, legislation does not even stipulate at what time or when an employer needs to be notified of the pregnancy. What’s more, the Labour Relations Act of 1995, classifies that a dismissal of an employee due to a pregnancy, an intended pregnancy, or a reason which relates to pregnancy, as being automatically unfair.

In the ACCA report titled Gender diversity to boost business performance, Sheena Ganesh, Finance Controller at Shell Petroleum, says ‘I have found that…female executives hesitate discussing flexible working, long maternity leave and sabbatical options for fear of losing position, being side-tracked for promotions, etc. It takes tremendous confidence in one’s own worth and the courage to speak up.’ Deducting from Ganesh’s statement it is obvious that education on rights of working moms needs to be done. highlights the following from the Basic Condition of Employment Act for women saying, the conditions of maternity leave are:

  •  A woman is granted at least four consecutive months of maternity leave and maternity leave can commence at any time from four weeks before the expected date of birth, unless mutually agreed by both employer and employee, or on a date that a medical practitioner or a midwife has deemed necessary;
  • A mother is not allowed to work for six weeks after the birth of her child, unless a medical practitioner or midwife certifies that she is fit to;
  • Any woman who has suffered a miscarriage during the third trimester of pregnancy or bears a stillborn child is entitled to maternity leave for six weeks after the miscarriage or stillbirth, whether or not she had begun maternity leave at the time of the miscarriage or stillbirth;
  • Payment of maternity benefits are determined according to the provisions of the Unemployment Insurance Act, there are some companies, however who offer paid maternity leave to their employees. If this is the case, a worker is not able to claim UIF (unless a portion of her salary is not covered by her employer).

It is crucial for women to know the rights that are in place to protect them. It is also crucial for a shift in the mind-set of business to take place in relation to working mothers in the workplace. The option to work closer to home, flexible working hours, near-site crèche facilities and job sharing are some of the measures that companies can do in embracing working mothers in the workplace.

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