Maternity Leave in the Zambian Employment Act

[Mwaba and Tina are in their 20s. In their tiny cottage, Tina walks out of the bathroom holding a pregnancy test]

Mwaba: What’s that?

Tina: A pregnancy test.

Mwaba: Oh okay…and?

Tina:… You’re going to be a father…I guess that means I’m going to be a mother!!!

Both: I can’t believe it!

Mwaba: Yes! When did it happen? I’ve lost count of how many times we –

Tina: Don’t say that! The baby can hear us!

Mwaba: I’m pretty sure the baby can’t hear us but I don’t care how crazy you are! You’re giving me a SON!

Tina: *rolls eyes* I’m giving us a child! I’m excited too, but my work place is so strict. I wonder if they’ll even give me maternity leave…

I’m I entitled to maternity leave?

Yes! The Employment Act Chapter 268 of The Laws of Zambia states that;

(1) Subject to any agreement between the parties, or any other written law, providing for maternity leave on conditions not less favorable than are provided for in this section, every female employee who has completed at least two years of continuous service with her employer from the date of first engagement or since the last maternity leave taken, as the case may be, shall, on production of a medical certificate as to her pregnancy signed by a registered medical practitioner, be entitled to maternity leave of twelve weeks with full pay.
(2) The maternity leave granted under subsection (1) shall be exclusive of any other leave to which a female employee may otherwise be entitled.
(3) In case of illness which arises out of pregnancy and results in a female employee becoming temporarily incapable of performing her official duties, such employee shall be entitled to sick leave in accordance with the provisions of section fifty-four.
(4) Any employer who contravenes the provisions of this section shall be guilty of an offence.

The Minimum Wage and Conditions of Employment, Order 2011 has conditions more favorable than the Employment thus they will apply;

(1) A female employee shall be granted one hundred and twenty calendar days paid maternity leave on production of a medical certificate to ascertain her pregnancy signed by a registered medical doctor or health facility if the employee has completed two years of continuous service from the date of first engagement or since the last maternity leave was taken.

(2) Maternity leave shall be additional to any other leave to which an employee may entitled.

(3) Where, by reason of illness arising of pregnancy, a female employee becomes incapable of performing her normal duties, she shall be entitled to sick leave.

(4) An employee shall not impose any other penalty or disadvantage upon an employee for reasons connected with the employees pregnancy.

What if I haven’t been working for two years or it hasn’t been two years since my last maternity leave?

Then you’re not entitled to maternity leave, however certain organisations do allow their employees take maternity leave or a version of it without meeting the two year standard (check your conditions of service or ask your HR practitioner or your supervisor). If this is not an option you could use your annual leave days or take unpaid leave if it permitted as a short substitution for maternity leave.

What if I can’t take maternity leave?

If you can’t take maternity leave for whatever reason, but are entitled to it, you could request that your employers reimburse you for the leave not taken.

Can I be terminated for being pregnant?

No (at least you’re not supposed to be), The Employment Act Chapter 268 of The Laws of Zambia states;

(1) An employer shall not terminate the services of a female employee or impose any other penalty or disadvantage upon such employee for reasons connected with such employee’s pregnancy.
(2) In the absence of proof to the contrary, an employer shall be deemed to have acted in contravention of subsection (1) if he terminates the contract of service or imposes any other penalty or disadvantage upon a female employee within six months after delivery.
(3) Any employer who contravenes the provisions of this section shall be guilty of an offence.

Furthermore of The Employment Act No. 15 of 2015 states;

Reasons that are not valid for termination of contracts include—  race, color, sex, marital status, family responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion or affiliation, ethnicity, tribal affiliation or social status of the employee.

For any further questions, additions or suggestions please feel free to leave a to comment below.

As requested by readers.