It's official! South African dads are getting paid paternity leave!

Exciting news for brand new dads and adoptive parents.
Exciting news for brand new dads and adoptive parents.

It happened! It's true.

On Friday 23 November, President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the much-anticipated Labour Laws Amendment Bill into law. This Bill, which got the thumbs up in Parliament last November and just waited for the president's nod, gives fathers in South Africa the right to 10 days’ paid parental leave

It was ACDP MP Cheryllyn Dudley who first brought the proposed bill to the National Assembly in 2017, where it was passed and sent to Parliament. The Labour Laws Amendment Bill is the first piece of legislation to be passed in the National Assembly by a private member.

Reacting to the news via the ACDP Facebook page Cheryllyn said, "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.”

The passing of the bill was also praised by Sonke Gender Justice, tweeting: 

The amendments

So, what exactly does the new Bill entail?

In addition to making a massive difference for new dads, the bill also includes provisions for adoptive parents and surrogate mothers, as well as women who have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth. 

The newly passed provisions are as follows: 

Parental leave: 

  • 10 successive days 

Parental adoption leave: 

  • 10 consecutive weeks or 10 consecutive days

*A child must be 2 years old or younger for adoptive parents to qualify for parental adoption leave and is only applicable to one parent. 

Commissioning parental leave (applicable to surrogate mothers)

  • 10 consecutive weeks or 10 consecutive days

A note on maternity leave 

  • A mother who loses her child in the third trimester, or whose baby is stillborn, remains eligible for maternity leave (4 consecutive months). 

The president has not given an official date for when the amendments will come into play but according to reports, this date is 1 January 2019

Read on News24: Working dads can now take paternity leave for 10 days

What did the law say about paternity leave in SA?

Previously, dads who wanted to stay with their baby and its mother had to take family responsibility leave, which was limited to 3 days per annual cycle, or use their annual leave. They were only entitled to family responsibility leave once they’d been employed for 4 months and for at least four days a week. The law made no provision for paternity leave for adoption or surrogacy.

What is the maternity leave situation in SA?

A mother is entitled to unpaid maternity leave of 4 months, while her position is reserved for her. 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. 

Moms who miscarry in the third trimester or have a stillborn child can claim for 6 weeks. 

Read more about the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) Section 27

Read: What the law says about maternity leave

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.

Source: Wikipedia

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 

“Having paternity leave is really great as a father, because so many fathers don’t get to experience how it goes raising a child from birth. It’s really difficult for mothers as well to be on their own, they need comfort, they need somebody else who’s going to help out. The worst part about it is the sleepless nights because the baby is crying, needs a nappy change, the mother is exhausted especially if she’s breastfeeding, she really does need the help of the father in that time to be around.

I also think paternity leave is good for fathers for bonding with the child, from day one. You have to be there as a father, you have to be there.”

Freeman Nofemele, barista and dad of 2 kids

“Well played Parlie! To be given more time off during this special time is really a fantastic initiative from the government. Dads around the world are more hands on than ever before, and all dads should be excited about being able to spend a few extra days alongside their partners and new bundles of joy.”

Myles Brown, native advertising manager and dad 

Also read:

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