UPDATED: Govt to liberalise maternity leave

Paidamoyo Chipunza Senior Health Reporter
Government has agreed in principle to do away with the existing one-year qualifying period for female employees to be eligible for maternity leave, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Sekai Nzenza has said.

She said Government also sought to remove current restrictions on paid maternity leave.

Minister Nzenza said the proposals would enable female employees to enjoy the right to paid maternity leave irrespective of their length of service in line with the Constitution.

“These proposals would align the Labour Act (28:01) with the Constitution, which provides for maternity benefits in Section 65,” said Minister Nzenza.

The Constitution and the Labour Act currently give different periods for maternity leave.

Section 65 (7) of the Constitution states that “women employees have a right to fully paid maternity leave for a period of at least three months” while Section 18 (1) of the Labour Act says: “Unless more favourable conditions have otherwise been provided for in any employment contract or in any enactment, maternity leave shall be granted in terms of this section for a period of 98 days on full pay to a female employee who has served for at least one year.”

Minister Nzenza said while the Labour Act allowed female employees 98 days on full pay for employees who have served an employer for one year, a female employee who has not completed one year of service with an employer was only eligible for unpaid leave.

She said, furthermore, a female employee was entitled to maternity leave three times with the same employer, at intervals of two years with the same benefits.

“The ministry wishes to point out that the principles that will inform the amendment of the Labour Act (28:01) include proposals to amend Section 18, which provides for maternity protection,” she said.

Other legal provisions on maternity leave include entitlement to one hour of breastfeeding during normal working hours.

These hours can be combined with other normal breaks.

All expecting women from the private and quasi-Government departments are eligible for maternity benefits.

Female employees in the public sector are catered for under Statutory Instrument 1 of 2000, enacted in terms of the Public Service Act (16:04).

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