Taking baby steps towards saving for your maternity leave

The department of labour uses the last four years worked to calculate how many credit days you have available, and for every six months worked you will receive a month’s benefit, to the maximum of four months.

Becoming a parent is a time of congratulations and high emotions, but it can also be  stressful financially if you are receiving a lower or no salary at all while on maternity leave.

You may be able to use paid leave to extend the term you take off on full or partial pay. Picture: 123RF
You may be able to use paid leave to extend the term you take off on full or partial pay. Picture: 123RF

Going on maternity leave is a time of congratulations and high emotions as you get ready to welcome a new member of the family.

It can also be a stressful time financially if you are receiving a lower salary over the period, or worse, no income at all.

It is vital to educate yourself early on how to fill those income gaps to ensure you are still able to pay all your expenses, insurance policies and debt.

In South Africa, mothers are entitled by law to up to four months’ maternity leave, but employers are not obliged to pay you your salary during your maternity leave, only to keep your job for you.

Some are generous and pay in full for three or four months, others pay nothing at all, while others remunerate something in between, like 75% of your salary, Muhammed Goolab, executive committee member of the South African Reward Association, explains.

If your employer will not pay in full while you are on maternity leave and you have been contributing to the Unemployment Insurance Fund, you may also be eligible to receive a benefit from the fund. But this may not replace all your income shortfall.

Goolab says if you are employed you need to have a conversation with your human resources department regarding how much time off you qualify for and the portion of your salary that will be paid over the period.


Employers are not obliged to pay you your salary during your maternity leave, only to keep your job for you.
Muhammed Goolab, executive committee member of the South African Reward Association

You may be able to use paid leave to extend the term you take off on full or partial pay.

If your employer does not pay or does not pay in full while you are on maternity leave, you need to check how your benefits such as medical scheme membership, group life and disability cover and retirement contributions will be covered. If your employer will not cover these, you need to know what you will have to pay and to make a plan to pay these yourself.


Now you have a clear understanding of what your employer will offer you over your maternity leave. If it’s not full pay, you need to determine how much you will receive from the UIF and whether that payment will cover your income gap.

According to the UIF’s online portal, www.ufiling.gov.za, you can expect to receive a benefit of between 38% and 60% of your salary, depending on your income level. However, you cannot receive more than 100% of your salary from the department and your employer combined.

The department of labour uses the last four years worked to calculate how many credit days you have available. For every six months worked you will receive a month’s benefit, to the maximum of four months.

“Once you have educated yourself on your employee benefits and policies, it is prudent to contact your financial adviser for advice on how you should manage your finances while on maternity leave,” Goolab says.

Bev van Nijkerk, segment specialist for Sanlam Young Professional Markets, says you need to check up on how you will continue to pay premiums on life, disability or retirement annuity policies.

Check whether you qualify for waivers on premiums or reduced premiums while you are on maternity leave, she says.

Some insurers like Liberty offer a maternity pause option under their income protection policy, providing mothers with some financial relief from paying their premiums for up to four months while they are on maternity leave. The maternity pause option is free if you have at least two Liberty products.


Moms who own their own businesses also need a personal financial strategy when they go on maternity leave.
Bev van Nijkerk, segment specialist for Sanlam Young Professional Markets

The benefit is available nine months after you take out the policy and applies for a maximum of two maternities.


Not keeping up with premiums on policies like your retirement annuity can lead to penalties and significant loss of the compound interest you could earn.

If you have an income protection policy you may be able to claim on it during your maternity leave.

According to Old Mutual, a policy with temporary income protection is best suited to providing cover for maternity leave as the waiting period can be as short as two weeks.

Moms who own their own businesses also need a personal financial strategy when they go on maternity leave, Van Nijkerk says.

You should check whether or not you’ll be taking home a salary. If you have business partners, will they be happy if you take home your full month salary while you’re not working, she asks.

To find out whether or not you qualify for unemployment insurance, ask your accountant whether the way your business has been set up allows you to claim from the UIF.

Van Nijkerk says the bottom line is that you need to plan, plan, plan. Determine how much time you can actually afford off. You could consider other ways to make income while on maternity leave, like caring for another child, to supplement your income. However, you must remember that being a mother is a job itself and can be overwhelming for new mothers who don’t enjoy much support.

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