Advice Column, Baby, Parenting, Pregnancy & Baby

Paternity Leave

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  • Category Advice Column, Baby, Parenting, Pregnancy & Baby

At the risk of being ostracised, mercilessly, I feel we need to start looking at and changing paternity leave regulations. “Three days are more than enough. It’s not like you were pregnant, gave birth or have to breastfeed.” I have heard this argument more than once over the last few weeks. It just does not hold water for me and here is why.

The labour law in South Africa allows a mother the following rights:

Number of Leave Days

Pregnant workers are entitled to at least 4 consecutive months of maternity leave.

Based on Legislation in Section 25of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act

Timing of Leave

Workers may take maternity leave 1 month before their due date, or earlier or later as agreed or required for health reasons.

Workers may not go back to work within 6 weeks after the birth unless their doctor or midwife say it is safe.

Based on Legislation in Section 25of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act

Based on the above it would seem that the leave is given due to medical reasons. Hence the clause that a mother may not be forced to return to work within the first 6 weeks after birth, the minimum amount of time required to recover from a C-section.

I want to state clearly that I agree fully with the laws pertaining to maternity leave.

I have an issue with the following law however:

Number of Leave Days

Full time workers may take 3 days of paid family responsibility leave during each annual leave cycle (12 month periods from date of employment).

Family responsibility leave expires at the end of the annual cycle.

Based on Legislation in Section 27of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act

Reasons for Leave

You may take family responsibility leave:

When your child is born

There are further conditions as to when you may take family responsibility leave, but I would like to focus on the one mentioned above.  If you and your wife/partner have a child you are allowed only three days leave every 12 months. These three days must be split up between the day of the birth and then any doctor’s appointments you might have where the baby is sick.  Keep in mind this does not include the three clinic appointments and 6 week check-ups that you and baby have to attend as they are regular appointments and do not fall under family responsibility.

Let us look at a practical example, mine:

Our little angel was born on a Thursday. We went in for induction at 06:00 a.m. and she was born at 11:18 a.m. The days leave I had to take counts as day 1 of family responsibility.  Our little one had jaundice and had to stay in the hospital until the Monday before we could take her home. Family responsibility day 2.  I now have 1 family responsibility day left for the rest of the year. This includes days that I might have to take my child to the doctor if she is sick.

I took two weeks of my leave, that I saved by not taking leave in December, to stay home with my partner and help her with our baby. I am now in a situation where I have no leave days, and 1 family responsibility day left. Even if I took no other leave day for a year I would have a maximum of 12 days left for the year.  Luckily we had a natural birth. If Jani were to have had a C-section and be unable to drive for 6 weeks, we would really have been in trouble.

Big corporate companies like Facebook have identified this same issue and are now allowing up to 6 months paid paternity leave within the first year after your child is born. He decision was made to allow fathers to spend quality time with their baby, growing a healthy family unit. Unfortunately this is the exception and not the rule.

The current paternity leave laws are sexist and they represent a misguided stigma that fathers do not want to spend time with their children.

I believe we as parents should unite in requesting the law makers to amend these archaic laws and allow fathers to be fathers and assist in the raising of their children. As a father I want to be part of my child’s life, but without the proper laws in place to allow me to do so, I am forced to leave my partner to cope with the stress of doctors appointments, sick days, etc. on her own.


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