South Africa has seen two decades of social progress in the workplace, but unfortunately, our employment laws still perpetuate the idea that child-care is exclusively a mother’s responsibility. Thankfully, our lawmakers seem ready to reconsider these laws – by turning to dads and giving them paternity leave.
Our current laws basically force (and perhaps intimidates) women, who make up almost 44% of the South African workforce, to earn a living while shouldering most of the responsibility of raising kids. Men, on the other hand, are at an economic advantage, as they are able to side-step the unpaid work involved in caring for children at home. Even if dads choose to be hands-on in caring for their newborn children, our laws make it very difficult for them to do so.
Listen to our legal expert, Adv. Kaiél Grobler talk about Paternity Leave on Breakfast Beat (Voice of the Cape):
There are many critics who allege that men will only use leave as means to a paid holiday, however, numerous studies in countries that offer sufficient paternity (or parental) leave, disproves this impression and demonstrates countless benefits for families, employers, and society. If men share child care responsibilities and are allowed to bond with their kids from the get-go, women are able to return to the workplace much sooner. Rationally, this increases women’s ability to engage in paid work, which has a positive effect on female workforce participation and wages. Ultimately, it results in a greater household income, which benefits the whole family.
Parliament has recently held public hearings on the proposed Labour Laws Amendment Bill, that offers fathers 10 days’ paternity leave. While the suggested changes are a step in the right direction (at the moment men are only allowed 3 days’ family responsibility leave when their children are born) it is hardly sufficient to increase economic opportunities for women. We’ve submitted our thoughts on the Bill in its present form to Parliament and hope that its provisions will be further developed to properly acknowledge and cater for modern family dynamics. Hopefully, it will give parents more say in the matter.