salrcSunday Times reports that women in the informal sector could in future be in a better position in regard to maternity benefits thanks to a proposal to extend those benefits to them.

This was set out in a discussion paper that has been published by the SA Law Reform Commission for public comment. The document suggests that maternity benefits, including at least four months’ leave and remuneration, should be extended “to avoid discriminatory practices in the legislative framework”. It also proposes that the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) should provide parental or cash benefits to expectant mothers, and says fathers and partners should get 10 days of paid paternity leave. Informal workers such as street vendors, those in waste recycling, spaza shop workers and waste pickers would benefit. Commission researcher Linda Mngoma said informal workers were the focus because of their vulnerability. The position of self-employed workers in the formal sector could be considered at a later stage if financial resources became available. The proposal is that the UIF system be extended to self-employed workers who are able to make a contribution of about 1% of their income, with the other 1% paid by the state. Those mothers who are unable to make a contribution to the UIF should be provided with maternity support in the form of child support grants from the first month of pregnancy. The Women’s Legal Centre commented that maternity benefits were long overdue for vulnerable pregnant women.

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