Paternity leave: what are the options for SA dads?

By Drum Digital
13 June 2014

It seems to be a global trend for countries to introduce a shared parental leave policy which allows dads time off to support their partners after the birth of their baby. But what is the situation for South African dads and how can they help out with their new bundle of joy if they don’t get any time off?

How does paternity leave work in South Africa?

South Africa has one of the most developed legal systems in the world and allows workers a multitude of rights. However when it comes to paternal leave, we seem to be lagging. Instead of allowing for paternal leave, fathers have to take family responsibility leave.

What is family responsibility leave?

This type of leave grants an employee three days’ paid leave a year. You’re entitled to take it when your baby is born, when your child is sick or in the event of the death of a close family member. However your employer is entitled to demand proof of your responsibility such as a medical certificate. If you’ve worked for the same employer for more than four months and work more than four days a week you are entitled to three days of family responsibility leave.

Can dads get leave after adopting a child?

There’s no statutory leave for adoption of a child in South Africa. There is, however, a right to claim unemployment insurance benefits for time off work for adoption purposes, but only one parent can make application for adoption benefits and the child adopted must be under the age of two.

The leave checklist

If you want to take time off for the birth your child, it’s smart to plan ahead. Use this helpful checklist:

  • Prepare all your documents to obtain leave by putting your paperwork in a folder to stay organised. Also keep copies of everything, including any forms you need to submit.
  • Ask around to find out how other men at your company managed their leave when their baby was born. Ask questions such as:

  1. How did you structure your leave?
  2. What arrangements did you make to have your responsibilities covered while you were gone?
  3. How did you transition back to work afterwards?
  4. Were you able to arrange any kind of flexible schedule before or after the baby arrived?

  • Provide evidence, such as a medical certificate or statutory declaration, if requested by your employer.
  • Have a discussion with your employer about arrangements for payment of any monies you may be entitled to or eligible to receive.

How to be helpful without paternity leave

  • Take the time Once you’re back at work, make spending time with your baby part of your evening and weekend routine. Pop them into a baby carrier and go out for an after-dinner stroll. It’s also never too early to start reading to your little one.
  • Be patient, positive and supportive Being a new mother means living in a constant state of exhaustion. Do whatever you can to help out with feedings, baths, nappy changes and so forth. This will give your partner a breather and provide you with bonding time with your new baby.
  • Be a breastfeeding partner Once breastfeeding is well established you can give your baby a bottle of expressed milk. It will give you some quality bonding time and your partner will be eternally grateful for your efforts.
  • Take the night shift If you aren’t home during the day to help soothe baby’s troubles, become the rescuer at the night when baby cries.
  • Hug it out: Whenever you get the chance go in for a cuddle with your new baby. It will comfort and reassure you both.
  • Try a baby massage Babies respond to touch, and a simple way to soothe and relax them is with a massage.
  • Take on nappy duty You may want this to be a mommy-only task, but nappy duty is also a time to bond.
  • Sing your baby a song Singing is one of the best ways to get a baby to respond and pay close attention to you. And it doesn’t matter what you sing or how good your voice is.

-Janine Nel

Sources: labourguide.co.za, www.leavenetwork.org, nortonrosefulbright.com, solidaritylegalservices.co.za, theguardian.com, babycenter.com

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