11 months of maternity leave?

Cosatu recently raised some eyebrows by insisting that the maternity leave period should be extended from 4 to 11 months. Pick ‘n Pay is probably currently the only  company in the country the offers maternity leave to this extent.

Maternity leave

According to South African labour law, you are currently entitled to 4 months, even though your company doesn’t have to pay you for this period. My social media investigation indicates that this plea was welcomed by women who wanted more bonding time with their children, but rejected by a lot of men.

Economy too weak

A well-known economist raised legitimate concerns, stating that the South African economy is too weak to survive the wide-spread implementation of  this period. I agree that 11 months is probably not a practical solution for our country, but then he takes a particularly negative stance by stating that the current period of 4 months is already too long.

Questions raised

Other social media commentators have questioned if a company can do without someone for 4 to 6 months, do they even really need them in the first place? It has also been commented that if women want maternity leave, especially extended maternity leave, they should rather stay at home and raise their children. Some are of the opinion that women should not have children if they cannot afford to stay at home and look after them. What happened to wanting to work and making a contribution to the business world? Businesses have threatened that they will not employ women of a childbearing age.

Women’s equality a theoretical concept

So from all these debates, it’s slowly becoming clear that women’s equality is  more of a theoretical concept than a reality.  With the extra responsibility of small children, you are still expected to work the same hours and on the same level as men, even though you may not have had any sleep the night before.  If you have to take time off work to look after sick children, you are not pulling your weight.

Part time option

The other option is to keep the current maternity leave period and allow mothers the opportunity to work part time, even if it’s only for the first few months. However, South African companies are still inflexible in this regard. I can easily perform my job from home, but have to struggle with unreliable public transport every day, so that people can see me sitting at my desk at work. And all I really need to do my job is my laptop, Internet connection and telephone…Flexible working hours is not a solution for every position, but where it can work, women should have that option. This is becoming the norm in many overseas countries.

Maybe the work situation of mothers in our country is just another indication of how little regard we have for women and children. A workable solution needs to be found that will allow women to spend more time with their children, as this will also lead to a healthier and more prosperous future for our country.

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