Fathers living in South Africa have been looking with envy at their Scandinavian counterparts who have for many years been granted paid paternity leave. Until recently fathers in South Africa were not entitled to paid paternity leave.
The question remains - why have fathers in South Africa been left behind? Mothers have been granted maternity leave, but fathers must be satisfied with only 3 (three) days family responsibility leave (in most circumstances, certain sectoral determinations make provision for more family responsibility leave days) when their child is born.
It is especially important in a country where most children never see their fathers or where absentee fathers have become the norm rather than the exception. This alone has created many social problems that Civil Society must deal with on a daily basis and has placed a great burden on the Government.
This seems particularly unfair in a country where we have the Equality Clause, Section 9 in the Constitution, that stipulates that “everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.” How has this position been changed by the Labour Laws Amendment Bill?
Labour Laws Amendment Bill
On the 21st of August 2018, the Labour Laws Amendment Bill was approved by the National Council of Provinces. It has now been sent to President Cyril Ramaphosa for his final approval and signature.
Should President Ramaphosa sign this Bill into law, it would entail that fathers would now be entitled to 10 (ten) days paid paternity leave. It would also be applicable to parents that have adopted a child, provided that the child is under 2 (two) years old. It would further make provision for surrogacy leave, increased UIF and maternity benefits.
Implications of Paid Paternity Leave
Fathers would now be able to assist their Partner/ Spouse when their child is born or adopted and would also be able to bond with the baby. Furthermore, it will go a long way to ensure that society does not view mothers as the primary caregivers of children. Paid paternity leave could pave the way for fathers to know that the South African Legislature values the roles that they play in the upbringing of their children. It will hopefully eradicate some of the societal problems that have been created by the absentee father.
Employers should therefore revise their family responsibility leave policies and/or Human Resources Policies to make provision for paid paternity leave. Employers are also advised to amend their Employment Contracts to include paid paternity leave. Contact SchoemanLaw Inc today for expert advice on all Contractual and Employment-related matters.
Written by Helena Roodt, Attorney, Schoeman Law