Planning Your Maternity Leave: The Ultimate Guide

3 mins read

Planning Your Maternity Leave: The Ultimate Guide
Share this

Preparing for a new baby can be stressful, especially if you have a career you love, which is why planning for maternity leave is so important. In addition to preparing for your pregnancy and life after the baby is born, you also have to prepare for the time you will be off from work. With so much to do, it’s hard to know where to begin. This guide will help you plan your maternity leave to focus on settling down into your new life with your little one.

Know your rights

The first step in your plan should be to know your rights and benefits. When it comes to maternity leave, the South African labour law states the following:

  • You are entitled to four months of unpaid maternity leave
  • Maternity leave should start from four weeks before the due date
  • You are required to give a month’s notice before the start of your maternity leave
  • Your employer is not obliged to remunerate employees for maternity leave
  • You can claim maternity benefits through the Department of Labour (You can make an online claim here)

Speak to your boss

It’s important to let your boss know that you are pregnant as soon as possible so that they can begin to plan for your maternity leave.

Establish how many days you will take off

That brings us to the next point - determining how many days you will be taking off. Although the South African labour law for maternity leave stipulates you are entitled to four months of unpaid leave, you have to figure out how much time you will need off and whether you can afford it.

Ideally, let your boss know as soon as possible when you intend to return to work so that they can block those dates, which will then make it easier to track your days off - especially if they are using an online leave management system like LeavePro.

Explore work schedule options

Things may change once the baby arrives. You may want to spend more time at home or to work flexible hours. Some companies will be open to negotiating these with you so it helps to explore your options.

Devise a transition strategy

Part of your maternity leave plan should include a transition strategy that defines what your job entails, the status of your projects and the details of colleagues who will be taking over your role while you are away.

Plan your return

It would help if you also created a memo detailing your transition back to work. Will you return gradually? What tasks will you be able to tackle upon your return? How will the workload handover work?

Wrap things up at work

During your final weeks, wrap up as many of your projects as possible and write any instructions for colleagues who may need them.

To avoid being bombarded while away, set up an out of office message stating that you will be on maternity leave and provide the dates you will be away.


It may be easier said than done but you’ve done what you need to work-wise and now is the time to relax and focus on spending time with your family. And if you still feel as if you have not covered everything, online career platform The Muse has created a great free checklist that you can use.