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Paternity Leave Amendments in South Africa

- Featured article by LAWYERS-ONLINE.CO.ZA - February 2019

As 2018 drew to a close, it seems President Cyril Ramaphosa was feeling generous and signed into effect a number of new laws and amendments. Most notably among these was the Labour Laws Amendment Bill, which not only solidified the minimum wage rate (we will be discussing this soon) but also allows for 10 days of paid paternity leave for new working fathers.

Cheryllyn Dudley, an MP of the ACDC remarked that “It has been an honour and a privilege for me to have been instrumental through the Labour Laws Amendment Bill in adding to this victory.” She first brought the bill to parliament in 2017. Well done!

Now, let’s look at what this amendment really means for working fathers and how it has improved paternity leave in South Africa. Before this Bill came into effect, in order for fathers to spend time with their new baby, they had to apply for family responsibility leave – of which they only had 3 days per cycle. Additionally, family responsibility leave only became available to employees after 4 months of working for a company. Now they can apply for 10 consecutive days of paid paternity leave following the birth of their child – that is two full weeks.

The amendment not only applies to newborns, the Bill also allows parental leave in the case of adoption. If a child is under the age of 2, one parent (the primary caregiver) is now afforded up to 10 weeks of parental adoption leave. Necessary when adopting a new child – especially in terms of bonding with them and getting to know them.

This is an awesome step forward in affording fathers equal parenting rights under the law and the new amendments regarding paternal leave. Gone are the days when mothers had to stay home alone with a new baby – now both parents have 10 paid days to solidify their new family together. This is so essential for familial bonding.

Additionally, the amendment not only benefits new fathers but takes a kinder approach to the loss of a child. Women who miscarry in their third trimester or who suffer a stillbirth are now also covered by maternity leave. We think this is fantastic, as these mothers need time to grieve.

The number of countries providing paternal leave worldwide is much smaller than you’d think, numbering only 79 out of 167 countries as analysed in 2014 by the International Labour Organisation – interestingly South Africa was already on that list due to its family responsibility leave policies.

Here’s to all the new fathers who will have the honour of seeing their child’s first two weeks in the world together. Make use of your paternity leave rights.

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