Parental leave

ON November 28, 2017 the National Assembly approved the Labour Laws Amendment Bill. The Bill does however need to be reviewed by the National Council of Provinces and the President before it will become law in South Africa.

Cheryllyn Dudley, the MP of the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), introduced it as a private members bill.

In summary, the bill includes the following provisions:

• An employee who is a parent and is not entitled to maternity leave has a right to 10 consecutive days of parental leave when the child is born, or an adoption order is granted, paid for by the Unemployment Insurance Fund.

• Where there is a single adoptive parent, if the child is under two years of age, the employee has a right to adoption leave of two months and two weeks consecutively.

• Where there are two adoptive parents, one employee has a right to adoption leave of two months, the other is entitled to parental leave of 10 days, paid for by the Unemployment Insurance Fund.

• The same applies to commissioning parents in a surrogate motherhood agreement (Surrogacy leave).

• The employees are also entitled to increased UIF and maternity benefits.

• Family responsibility leave when the child is born no longer applies.

• A collective agreement concluded in a bargaining council may not reduce an employee’s entitlement to parental leave, adoption leave or commissioning (surrogate) parental leave. The provisions bring South African Labour Law more in line with International standards, as well as our own Constitution, as they promote gender equality and the best interests of the child.

Fathers, heterosexual couples starting families as well as the LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, queer and intersex) community, adoptive and surrogate parents are all positively affected.

As much as this is a step in the right direction in respect of bringing labour laws in line with the South African Constitution, the bill has the potential of negatively affecting production in businesses. As an example, a few years ago the law firm J Leslie Smith conducted a review of its attendance registers over 10 previous years. The highest compliment of employees ever present at work at a given time was 83%.

On average, around 75% were present. This was due to employees being absent from work due to maternity leave, sick leave, study leave, family responsibility leave and so on.

If the Bill is made law, this would provide more avenues for employees to take leave, and further decrease the above statistics, which would lead to a further loss of productivity in businesses, specifically in male dominated fields.

It may however be argued that the best interests of the child advocate for both parents being present at the early stage of their life, as it allows parents to have an opportunity, which they would previously not have had, to bond with the child. — Written by Carol Wheeler.


Alberton Record


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