History is about to be made in South Africa as South African fathers, as well as same-sex couples and adoptive and surrogate parents, will soon be able to take parental leave and take paternity leave.
The parliament had on Tuesday, passed the Labour Laws Amendment Bill, proposed by ACDP MP Cheryllyn Dudley, which aims to give South African fathers the opportunity to take at least 10 days’ paternity leave.
This marked the first time a private member’s bill will be passed in the National Assembly. Having passed this stage, the National Council of Provinces is left to vote on the bill after which it would be taken to the President’s office for his final signature before it becomes a law.
“This bill is a landmark achievement for LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, queer and intersex) … rights in South Africa since it is gender-neutral and allows for adoption and surrogacy leave,” Sonke Gender Justice’s Wessel van den Berg said on Wednesday.
“The bill seeks to provide for parental leave, adoption leave and commissioning parental leave. It also provides for the payment of parental benefits as well as commissioning parental benefits from the Unemployment Insurance Fund,” the ACDP said in a statement earlier in the process.
Similarly, Sonke’s children’s rights and positive-parenting unit manager, Van den Berg said that the Labour Laws Amendment bill allowed for adoption and surrogacy leave, which was not available before.
“The country has allowed for same-sex marriage, but we have not allowed for same-sex parenting. This bill allows for gay parents to enjoy the benefits of taking care of their children,” Van den Berg said, adding that although leave for fathers was acceptable, the bill also provided for an increase in percentage for maternity leave benefits and the improved unemployment insurance fund benefits for millions of workers.
Before now, South African fathers who want to stay with their baby and its mother still have to take family responsibility leave, which is limited to 3 days per annual cycle, or put in annual leave. They’re only entitled to family responsibility leave once they’ve been employed for 4 months and for at least four days a week. The current law also makes no provision for paternity leave for adoption or surrogacy.
A mother is entitled to unpaid maternity leave of 4 months, while her position is reserved for her. However, she may claim from UIF for 17 weeks, at 38% to 58% of her salary (the salary ceiling is R12 478), tax-free. Some employers do pay their employees in part or full.
ACDP MP Cheryllyn Dudley explained that the bill was drafted in a manner that would harmonise it with current legislation and ensure the provisions contained in the bill are constitutional.
She said South African fathers, like mothers, play important roles in the upbringing of their children and as has already been described in the ACDP research, there’s no doubt that the provisions contained in the bill would facilitate early bonding between fathers and their children and that stronger and healthier families would be one of the many potential benefits for society as a whole,” she said.