The year 2020, also termed the year 20Plenty, is in full swing and thus far South African fathers or soon-to-be fathers are the major beneficiaries due to the proclamation of the Labour Laws Amendment Act 10 of 2018, particularly in respect of parental leave as provided in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997 (“the BCEA”) (as amended).
Over the years, the BCEA only made provision for four consecutive months of maternity leave for female employees, and three days of family responsibility leave to all employees. While female employees could claim the benefit of maternity leave at the birth of their new-born babies, fathers were always relegated to seeking the three days of family responsibility leave or exhaust their annual leave days in order to be afforded an opportunity to bond with their new-born babies.
During December 2019, President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa signed into law the commencement date for the new amendments as set out in the BCEA. The amendments took effect on the 1st of January 2020 in order to afford employees a period of 10 days parental leave benefits. The added advantage of this promulgation is the fact that those who apply for parental leave will also have the benefit of claiming for UIF under the Unemployment Insurance Act (“UIA”).
Parental leave is often described as leave available to either parent or both parents at the expiry of maternity or paternity leave. It is intended as a period of leave for the purposes of parental bonding and the early developmental needs of the child. Parental leave is slightly distinguishable from paternity leave as paternity leave exclusively applies to fathers to provide them with time off from work to also care and bond with the new-born baby and to care for the mother of the baby during the postnatal period.
Studies have revealed that greater parental involvement which is supported by maternity leave, paternity leave or parental leave provisions can lead to improved infant and child health, lower rates of infant and child mortality and greater educational outcomes for children in the long run.
Although parental leave is gender neutral, its promulgation will considerably benefit South African men who choose to play a part in their children's lives. The roles of men and women in South African society is increasingly changing as the clear conflict between work and care has led to the re-examination of our current labour legislation.
The gains of 10 days parental leave may be viewed as minimal and not at all plenty, however, as a father to a baby girl, I am of the view that this piece of legislation affording men an equal opportunity to contribute to the development and care of their children, is a step in the right direction.
Therefore, employers will have to swiftly amend their human resources policies and procedures in order to afford their employees a chance to bond with their bundles of joy.