On Tuesday 28 November, Parliament gave the thumbs up to a bill that will give fathers in South Africa the right to 10 days’ paid paternity leave.
The Labour Laws Amendment Bill was passed in the National Assembly in Parliament and will now be reviewed by the National Council of Provinces.
The bill also includes provisions for 10 weeks’ parental adoption leave if the baby is under 2 years (applies to one parent only) and surrogacy leave, and increased UIF and maternity benefits.
It places a bigger burden on the UIF chest, but will ultimately lead to healthier families.
Kenneth Meshoe, ACDP party leader, said they welcomed and encouraged initiatives that facilitate the involvement of fathers in their children’s lives, especially “in a country where fathers have historically been separated from their families and survival necessitated an acceptance of not being able to bond and be hands-on in their day-to-day upbringing.”
Matthew Parks, parliamentary co-ordinator for the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), is quoted by Business Dayas saying: “This bill will see billions of rand released from the UIF into the pockets of workers, and thus help them take care of their families and spur local economies. It will also help fathers play greater roles in taking care of their newborn children.”
What does the law currently say about paternity leave in SA?
At the moment, dads 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.
How we stack up against the rest of the world:
This new bill will bring SA more in line with other countries, many of which offer 1 to 4 weeks’ paternity leave. Some give parental leave which may be taken by one parent or split between both parents. And some offer incredible benefits for dads. Here’s a snapshot:
In Canada, dads have several options. They may take 5 weeks of maternity leave at 70% pay, or 3 weeks at 75% pay (up to a certain maximum), paid by social security. Alternatively either parent may take 32 weeks: 7 weeks at 70% and 25 weeks at 55%.
In the USA, 12 weeks’ parental leave applies to either mom or dad, but it’s inpaid – no UIF/social security claims available.
In Australia, dads get 2 weeks’ paternity leave at minimum wage but no payment (including maternity leave) is available to families where the primary caregiver earns above a certain threshold. Moms and dads are entitled to 52 weeks’ unpaid leave, shared among them, in the first 12 months after baby’s birth.
India is progressive and gives fathers up to 3 weeks at 100% of their salaries for the first and second children. From then on, only 12 weeks of paid maternity leave is permitted.
And Iran makes paternity leave compulsory for 2 weeks, at full pay, and moms get 6 months’ maternity leave at full pay too!
In Romania, the dad gets 1 paid week – but 3 weeks if the dad took an infant care course! It also grants one parent 104 weeks at 85% of their salary – that is, 2 years; or 156 weeks if the child has a disability, and the other parent 4 weeks.
Spain grants dads 4 weeks at 100%; or 156 weeks unpaid parental leave for either parent.
Finland offers 11 weeks at 70% up to a certain maximum.
Slovenia gives 12 weeks at 100% for 2 weeks, then a flat rate afterwards.
Sweden gives 18 weeks at 80%, up to a maximum!
In Japan, a father may take up to 1 year unpaid leave or may share the 26 weeks’ maternity leave with the mother.
What you say:
“We definitely need it, especially in the first two months because there’s no sleeping in that time. My girlfriend and I had not slept, or else we’d take turns – she’d sleep and I’d be up the whole night, then I’d have to go to work the next morning. And when she wasn’t sleeping at night, she didn’t have a choice but to look after the baby during the day too. So how do you cope in that situation? Two people are definitely a win.
“Also spending time with the child – how do you cope knowing that your little boy is just there but you’ll next see him only in a few hours? This paternity bill is going to work out well for dads.”
– Zukile Daniel, video editor and father of 2-year-old boy