Hon. Members, women have contributed positively to the liberation struggle and continue to contribute to the general prosperity of our country. August will be the 61st Anniversary of participation in the struggle, and it’s my view that motherhood and the impact made by women to the economics of the country are intrinsically linked.
Existing maternity leave policies should be re-drafted in a more gender-neutral manner, without assuming that every applicant will be a biological mother. Biological mothers will, however, continue to constitute the vast majority of applicants and certain aspects of maternity and pregnancy will, of course, only apply to biological mothers.
Human resources managers should be alive to these developments in the law. This will enable them to deal appropriately with applications for maternity leave going forward, given that the law will increasingly give recognition to different types of family structures beyond the traditional family.
The Unemployment Insurance Amendment Act, 2016 increasing maternity benefits sees a flat rate for maternity benefits (66% of a woman’s salary from 54%) is a positive step. Also, special maternity protection measures should be urgently considered to allow women the protection to fulfil their maternal role without being marginalised in the labour market. In countries like India and the UK maternity leave ranges from 26-39 weeks which accounts for breastfeeding.
According to the International Labour Organization, maternity leave should be a minimum of 14 weeks and women should be compensated at least 66.7% of their previous earnings. This standard is met by countries all over the world. The majority of them are in Eastern Europe, with an average of 27 weeks leave.
We are slightly below this average of 66.7% maternity compensation, and it is my view that our maternity legislation be revisited to bring it in line with international standards.
The amendment to the UIF Scale of benefits by Minister Olifant effective from 1 April 2017 is puzzling considering the accummulated surplus of R99 billion at the end of March 2016. The estimation that the surplus would reach R179 billion by 2019 surely does not now warrant increasing the maximum contributions to the fund by employers and employees from R148,72 to R177,12.
I look forward to hearing how this surplus will be utilised over the next year and what interventions will be funded to alleviate our unemployment problem in the country.
Shameen Thakur- Rajbansi
Minority Front MPL KZN Legislature
Debated by: Hon. Shameen Thakur-Rajbansi
Minority Front Leader (KZN Legislature)