City of Cape Town dragged to court over maternity leave


The municipal workers’ union Imatu is taking the City of Cape Town to the labor court after one of its union members was denied paid maternity leave.

According to Imatu, the city refuses to grant paid leave to the concerned member and employee of the city because her twins were born through surrogacy. The woman was apparently medically unfit to bear children herself.

“Our member has endured severe emotional stress and suffering for the past two months. Her twins were born in February at 26 weeks and have significant health challenges due to their early birth,” the union said.

“While all her attention and care had to be with her children in the hospital, at the same time our member had to fight an uphill battle for fair treatment since she found out shortly before their birth that the city would not grant paid maternity leave.”

Imatu says he is extremely disappointed in the city’s continued refusal to grant this leave with pay, while employees who give birth to their own children or adopt children under the age of three months are entitled to four months’ maternity leave. Three of those four months are paid.

The city apparently maintains that the employee in question is only entitled to ten weeks of unpaid leave, according to Imatu.

“The city’s approach is archaic, arbitrary, irrational and discriminatory against parents whose children are born through surrogacy, and mothers who cannot carry their own children for medical reasons.

“This leaves a dark stain on the fair and equitable treatment of women. It is all the more abhorrent that it is at the hands of the city – a municipality that presents itself as an example of inclusiveness, diversity and respect for women’s rights, as well as a champion for minorities.”

Imatu says that despite fervent efforts, the city was unwilling to negotiate and give their member the same privilege that her other female colleagues enjoy to spend important time with their newborn babies.

“The city’s approach also fails miserably to consider the best interests and rights of children.

“These premature twins need their mother’s care as much as the babies of any other mothers in the city’s service.”

Imatu says that without the income her member relies on, the time she spends with her babies will be extremely stressful.

Imatu will bring his case before the labor court on May 20.

Priya Reddy, spokeswoman for the City of Cape Town, confirmed to RNews that they had received the court documents.

According to Reddy, the city is currently considering its options.

“The city will respond to the application in due course, as soon as we have formulated our position.”