The one thing you must have in place to stop maternity leave disputes

Simangele Mzizi, Fsp Business, 28 Nov. 2014

Tags: maternity leave, maternity leave policy, leave

Last week, I came across this screaming headline: “Gay father fights maternity leave denial”. Essentially, the story was about a Durban man who’s taken his employer to court over maternity leave entitlement. This after his employee didn’t give him maternity leave.

While reading about it, I couldn’t help but say “not again”.

You see, I’ve seen countless stories of employers who find themselves in costly legal battles with employees over maternity leave.

But, those employers could’ve avoided unnecessary headaches if they had this one important thing in place.

Read on to find out what it is so you can effectively manage maternity leave in your workplace and avoid costly legal disputes.

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Here’s what you must have in place to avoid maternity leave disputes

The one thing you must have in place to stop maternity leave disputes is a maternity leave policy.
A maternity leave policy will help ensure:
  • There are clear guidelines about every maternity leave issue;

  • You have a structured way to deal with issues your employees raise about maternity leave;

  • You comply with all the legal obligations when it comes to maternity leave and your duties towards pregnant and breastfeeding employees; and
  • Your employees know what you allow and don’t allow when it comes to maternity leave.
Basically, having a policy means you and your employees will be on the same page about maternity leave. There will be no room for confusion.
Just bear in mind that you must communicate your policy to your employees and apply it consistently.
It doesn’t make sense to have a policy no-one knows about or having a policy you don’t follow. This type of thing alone could lead to disputes.
So what should you cover in your maternity leave policy?

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Here are some suggestions of what you could cover in your maternity leave policy

  • Explain who can take maternity leave;
  • Cover when employees can start maternity leave and when they must return;
  • Explain when employees must tell you about going on maternity leave. And how to tell you (for example, in writing);
  • Cover points about UIF maternity leave benefits;
  • If you give employees special maternity leave benefits, cover this too;
  • Cover how you deal with adoption leave for same sex couples;
  • Explain how you deal with paternity leave; and
  • Tell employees that when they come back to work, they must give you a medical certificate to prove they’re fit for normal duty.

With a maternity leave policy in place, you’ll avoid any confusion about when, where and how an employee can take maternity leave. And legal disputes over the issue will be a thing of the past. So make sure you have this policy in place.
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