Much like the rest of the world, the typical South African family structure has changed over the years. The prevalence of single parent families is on the rise and increasingly, women head more households. The combined effect of these two structural shifts has seen a growing number of single working mothers in the South African workforce.
This is according to the latest Stats SA General Household report, which reveals that women now head almost four out of 10 South African households (37.9%). The majority of children (43.1%) live only with their mothers, in contrast with the much smaller percentage (3.3%) who live only with their fathers. Only 33.8% of children live with both parents.
Given that the head of the household is usually the main breadwinner, Rigitte van Zyl, head of client value propositions at Momentum Corporate, says that employers need to consider these shifting household demographics when structuring their employee benefit packages. ‘The reality today is that many single working mothers in South Africa are the sole caregivers and providers for their families. Income certainty for them therefore has a far wider-reaching impact, as it also determines the future of their families,’ she adds.
South African employers who provide benefits to their employees need to be cognisant of the growing number of single mothers who likely make up their workforce, and bear in mind the vulnerable financial position that many of these women find themselves in. Given this vulnerability, Van Zyl highlights the need for these female breadwinners to protect their most valuable asset – their income. Protecting their ability to earn an income helps to safeguard the future of their families if they are unable to work due to disability or a critical illness. An unexpected and life-changing disability or illness can have a considerable impact on an employee and their family. They could be left without an income if they are unable to work, or forced to move to a less strenuous and lower paying job.
Van Zyl believes that employers can help by providing these women with holistic employee benefits that ensures income certainty. ‘For single mothers who would have no one else to rely on financially if the unfortunate was to happen, the provision of holistic employee benefits that include disability and critical illness cover at the right level for their needs is crucial. This will also ensure that they can get the care that they need to get back to work, without having to spend their personal savings that is kept for rainy days,’she says.
Employers are encouraged to use the services of a financial adviser who will provide advice on the appropriate employee benefits offerings that could help to protect their businesses and their employees against the financial impacts they may face. The financial adviser will design and deliver fit-for-purpose solutions elegantly tailored around the needs of the employer and provide employees with holistic financial advice, and will partner with a service provider that will meet the real needs of the employees. ‘By partnering with a service provider that offers leading bundled retirement, health and insurance solutions will ensure that the health and financial wellbeing of employees is covered, while allowing for innovative reward programmes that will benefit employees; body and pocket simultaneously,’ says Van Zyl.
Ronelle Kind, General Manager, Member Engagement Solutions at Momentum