With the everchanging society and the progression towards equality of the genders and the roles each play in the home, it leaves room for progression in the workplace and how employers treat their staff in respect of leave when a parent is expecting a baby.
The law on Maternity leave has always been quite clear. A pregnant woman is allowed 4 consecutive months of Maternity leave, her leave may start at least four weeks before the birth and another six weeks after the birth. This leave is not always paid leave, but if your contract does not cover paid leave, a pregnant woman is entitled to unemployment benefits.
But what is the case with fathers? Are they entitled to “Paternity leave”? As the law currently stands, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act only makes provision for pregnant women and does not cater for expecting fathers. If an expectant father is desirable to take leave after the birth of his new baby, such leave falls under Family Responsibility leave – however, this leave is limited to 3 days a year and can only be taken after an employee has been working for 4 months at the place of employment. This has caused much debate, as the gender roles in society are changing, men are as much caregivers to their children as are mothers.
The Labour Law Amendment Bill which has now been passed by Parliament has changed the law on Paternity leave. It now caters for Parental leave caters for fathers, adoptive parents and a commissioning parent. Such leave will allow parents 10 consecutive days of leave from birth of their child or from date of adoption or when an adopted child is placed in the care of the adoptive parents. However, if the adopted child is under the age of two, parents will be allowed 10 consecutive weeks of Parental leave.
Commissioning parents are having a child with assistance of a surrogate mother, they are allowed 10 weeks or the 10 days of Parental leave.
But who then pays these parents when they are on leave? Employers do not pay. The UIF Act has also been amended to cater for these changes. Persons taking parental leave will be paid as per their Unemployment benefits. However, such person must have worked for a minimum of 13 weeks.
This Bill will now reflect the hearts of the changing society in which we live, it not only helps fathers, but allows for the different types of families that are now forming.
Aurelia Pearl Singh