Do we have paternity leave in South Africa?

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, paternity leave is leave granted by a company to an employee when he becomes a father.

Despite South Africa’s advanced labour legislation, there is however no specific provision dealing with paternity leave. The closest to paternity leave for fathers is to be found in Section 27 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, and is known as Family Responsibility Leave.

Section 27 states that an employee is entitled to take 3 days leave during each cycle of 12 months of employment with the employer when his child is born, when his child is sick or in the event of the death of the his spouse, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild or sibling.

This means that if a father (biological and adoptive) chooses to take his 3 days paid leave at the time his child is born, he cancels any further paid family leave for that year. According to the BCEA, certain conditions of employment must be met before such leave is owed to fathers. Employees who have been in employment with an employer for longer than four months and who work for such an employer at least four days a week are entitled to paid family responsibility leave.

The situation is very different in countries overseas. The United Kingdom, grants partly-paid Paternity Leave up to two weeks and should be taken after the birth of your baby, either as a block of one or two weeks. In Sweden, for example, a couple can take up to 15 months off work between them, while the state pays 80% of lost wages up to a particular ceiling. Further, 90 more days can be taken for a smaller payout. The only stipulation is that the leave be taken in a block, or in batches before your child reaches the age of eight. In 2000, Parental Leave in Canada was expanded from 10 weeks to a substantial 35 weeks, and can be divided between the two parents. Under special circumstances, the Canadian Employment Insurance system has granted up to a year of Parental Leave.

In the good old days, dads didn’t dare enter the delivery room, let alone take time off from work to bond with junior or care for their wife. Today’s practical, quality-of-life-loving fathers are a far cry from them and the birth of a child should therefore entitle them to this leave…

Has the time come to institute a class action perhaps?

Any new moms or dads out there that would like to comment?