A recent landmark judgement by the Gauteng High Court has transformed the landscape on parental leave in South Africa.
“The judgement is good news for employees who become new parents, regardless of their gender or whether or not they are the biological parents of their child,” explains Nicol Myburgh, Head of the HCM Business Unit at CRS Technologies.
In the judgement, certain sections of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) and the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) were declared discriminatory because they differentiated between mothers and fathers, and between a birth mother and other mothers or parents of a child.
Consequently, Parliament has been given two years to amend the BCEA in accordance with the ruling, but parents get to enjoy the benefits of the changes in the meantime.
“What this means,” continues Myburgh, “is that new parents will be able to share the four months’ maternity leave that was previously only reserved for mothers, and they will be able to decide for themselves how the four months will be split.
“Additionally, parents of surrogate children and adoptive parents of children under the age of two year will be granted the same parental leave privileges.”
To qualify for the leave, both parents must, before the birth date of their child, notify their respective employers in writing of how they intend to split the 16 weeks between them by specifying the duration and allocation of leave periods for each parent.
It’s still unpaid
Myburgh notes that employers are not legally required to compensate their employees during the parental leave period so no changes to the company payroll are required.
“However, parents are entitled to claim from the UIF if they contribute,” he adds.
“By extending the scope of maternity leave the judgement effectively acknowledges that mothers are not the sole caregivers of their newborns.
“Fathers and non-female parents also play vital caregiving roles in raising their children and deserve to be granted equal rights and opportunities to be involved in the growth and nurturing of their offspring, Myburgh concludes.