April is one of the two major holiday periods in South Africa. It was not even two weeks into Christmas 2021 when news articles popped up on our social media feeds highlighting which days to take off during 2022 for an extended holiday.

For many, the April public holidays are the perfect time to take a break from the first quarter of the year. This is also the time of the year when we celebrate Family Day and reflect on the importance of family and spending time with loved ones.

Sounds nice, but when it comes to WHO is taking leave, there is an interesting dynamic and dilemma in the workplace where men are still more likely to take leave compared to their female counterparts. Research has shown that women feel more pressured to work harder and longer, and to think twice before they let family, or their personal needs get in the way of their productivity.

Family Day in 2022

As part of the Easter long weekends, we celebrate Family Day on 18 April 2022. This holiday was established to give each South African family (regardless of religion and background) a special day to be with their loved ones.

With this year being the first time since the start of the COVID-19 lockdowns (no hard lockdown levels or forced staycations) for some, this is the first family holiday in over two years. There is also a new view on the ways of the world and the workplace.

Post-pandemic, we have seen an increase in work-from-home business models, people valuing their personal time with family and friends over the ‘work hard, play hard’ lifestyle of before. With the majority of people having experienced the ‘what-am-I-doing-with-my-life’ moment, it sparked the great resignation, and people started to question their role in the economy.

Why women feel pressured not to take leave

According to Deloitte’s Global report, Women @ Work: A Global Outlook, the findings of a survey of 5,000 women across 10 countries, nearly 80% of women say their workloads have increased because of the pandemic, while 66% of women report having more responsibilities at home.

The research also showed that the pandemic has created even greater challenges for LGBT+ women and women of colour, who are more likely to report lower mental well-being levels and work-life balance.

In January 2022, The Institute of Entrepreneurship Development found that women are more likely to say yes to tasks, particularly those that do not lead to relevant promotions. The insight from this study is that apparently, growing up as girls, women have been socialised to be compliant and are more risk-averse than men. This leads to a strong aversion to saying “no,” which results in heavier workloads full of thankless tasks. A recipe for stress and burnout. Harvard Business Review found similar insights from their studies, showing that women were 48% more likely to volunteer than men.

In 2018, a survey conducted by Indeed focused on women working in the tech sector revealed that 83% of respondents who had kids, while working for their current companies said they felt pressured to return to their jobs while they were on paternity leave.

Survey participants gave varied reasons for why they felt pressured to return early:

  • 34% said colleagues or managers directly pressured them.
  • 32% feared losing their jobs.
  • 38% cited a fear of losing credibility or value.

With the pressure of having to spend quality time with family and friends, ensure their own mental and physical well-being is considered, look after the household, and perform the very best at work, working women do have a slightly longer list of responsibilities to juggle than men, many of which are invisible to employers.

How companies can help solve these issues:

Businesses can become more aware and acknowledge their female employees by starting relevant conversations that address the contributors to their pressure.

  1. Ensure fair and equal pay.

It should go without saying that salaries should get based on responsibilities and performance, and that employers should guard against a gender-based pay gap.” – IED team.

  1. Determine how the business can implement greater flexibility and control over their work schedules. Look at workplace policies that allow flexitime and working from home, where possible. This will make it much easier for women to meet their various responsibilities. It also encourages a better work/life balance, allowing time for family.
  2. Look at the new developments of parental leave policies

According to Muhammed Goolab, executive committee member of the South African Rewards Association, the most forward-thinking and attractive employers of the future will look at offering mothers returning to the workforce more flexible working arrangements that allow parents to balance their responsibilities better.

Furthermore, some companies are looking at alternate leave structures for new parents, such as cumulative family leave benefits, progression in the number of leave days where parents need to take care of more than one child and reduced working hours.

This will allow fathers to take on more responsibility and decrease the pressure on working moms to balance new baby and business productivity.

Productivity SA’s role in promoting fair and fruitful workplace environments.

Productivity SA, an entity of the Department of Empoyment and Labour was established in terms of section 31 (1) of the Employment Services Act, No. 4 of 2014, as a juristic person with a mandate to promote employment growth and productivity.

We promote a culture of productivity in workplaces, facilitate and evaluate productivity improvement and competencies in workplaces, and support initiatives to prevent job losses and increase inclusivity in the workplace.

In addition, the core mandate of the Department of Employment and Labour is to regulate the South African Labour Market for sustainable economic development through appropriate legislation and regulations, inspection, compliance monitoring and enforcement, protection of human rights, provision of employment services, promotion of equity, social and income protection, and social dialogue.

Our main goal is for human rights to be upheld, drive individual responsibility and, as a result, create a ripple effect of positive business outcomes that can drive economic growth in South Africa.

We would love to help with your business’ productivity and progress or shape an environment that celebrates diversity, drives inclusivity, and shapes a new world where women do not feel pressured to overcompensate in the workplace out of fear of judgement or job loss.

Learn more about Productivity SA’s services or get in contact if you have any questions or requests.