How can we advocate for six months maternity leave?

Friday June 26 2020


By Caroline Mboijana

Dear Caroline,
Exclusive breastfeeding is six months, yet maternity leave is three months for those lucky to work for companies that give three, some organisations only give a few days, or don’t give at all. How can women advocate for six months maternity leave to allow for exclusive breastfeeding, and more time with the baby? Lucy

Dear Lucy,
The employment law states that a woman is entitled to 60 working days maternity leave and she must take a minimum of at least four weeks, 20 working days, after childbirth.

It is important to breastfeed your child, for health and development reasons.
Advocating for extended maternity leave is about influencing organisational leadership to move with global trends, highlighting the positive impact an extended maternity leave will have on the parent, the new born and the organisation.
Organisations may be hesitant to extend maternity leave because of the impact of having you off work and the costs associated with hiring temporary staff etc.

There are aspects which can be taken into consideration that can support new mothers.
If extended maternity leave cannot be granted for the full six months, organisations can consider introducing breastfeeding rooms. This will allow mothers to breastfeed while at work. While this will address the baby being breastfed, the question is whether it will add value to the well-being of the mother. The mother will have to leave office every few hours and then rush back to work.

Another alternative is to allow new mothers to take, in combination their annual and maternity leave. This option will allow for an extended maternity leave in an environment that is beneficial to both mother and baby. This may not address the full six months; however, it does extend it more than the current three months.
A third option is to allow new mothers to work half day after the mandatory maternity and annual leave has been used up. The half day can be worked either at home or the office. This would benefit, the newborn, mother and the organisation.

A final option is to advocate for between one to two hours a day for breastfeeding.
Caroline Mboijana,
Managing Director,
The Leadership Team (U)