Paternity Leave: Amend the BCEA for Gender Equality Sake?

Paternity Leave: Are South African men overlooked in the BCEA or should the BCEA be amended for Gender Equality Sake?

Last week Mark Zuckerberg announced he’d be taking two months of paternity leave. His company offers four months of paid leave to both male and female employees. With Mark Zuckerberg announcing his leave and championing the benefits of taking paternity leave, not to mention more progressive companies offering paternity leave as well as longer periods of maternity leave, it is arguably the change that the world needs to bridge the gap between gender equality in the workplace.

What the law says when it comes to paternity leave in South Africa

Most South African fathers receive no paid paternity leave and thus have to draw from their 3 days of family responsibility leave to allow them to bond with their new-born babies. There’s a special provision for maternity leave (4 months) whilst paternity leave is covered for under family responsibility leave (3 days).

Many argue that the leave currently mandated doesn’t allow for both parents to involved in their new-borns’ development, which is critical at the early stages.

“Paternity leave” is simply a term used to refer to section 27 of The Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) (No 75 of 1997) where a provision is made for “family responsibility leave” of 3 days during a 12 month annual leave cycle. This section allows for when a child is born and thus under this section, the father is included.

Family Responsibility leave expires at the end of the annual leave cycle and cannot be accrued.

Maternity leave:

Maternity leave applies to pregnant women who are not able to work or have recently given birth.

Women are entitled to 4 consecutive months of maternity leave when they are pregnant. It is not compulsory for your maternity leave to be paid by your employer. If your employer does not offer paid maternity leave then women who have been contributing to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) can submit a claim from the Maternity Benefit Fund. [,Source]


Petition for more paternity leave

In July last year, Hendri Terblanche, a Financial Manager in Cape Town, challenged the status quo and submitted a petition to members of Parliament, requesting that the National Assembly consider drafting a bill that allows 10 days’ paternity leave in the BCEA.

He argued that the three days allowed for family responsibility leave is insufficient, especially in cases of emergency, such as a caesarean delivery, or for parents whose babies have been born prematurely or are sick.

He said that the law needs to change to allow fathers to be involved! [,Source]

Paternity leave in UK

In April this year, legislation governing paternal leave was introduced in the UK, allowing parents of new born children 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay that can be shared between parents. This parental leave is in addition to the compulsory initial two weeks’ leave afforded to the mother. [,Source]

In your opinion, what is a reasonable amount of leave to be allocated for paternity leave? Should South Africa also consider the concept of “shared leave”, especially for the sake of bridging the gender gap?

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