Labour relations and employment Law expert, Andrew Levy, says that any attempts to increase the current parental leave status in South Africa is not likely to be welcomed by business.
Levy was speaking on Talk Radio 702 after the Times reported that Cape Town father, Hendri Terblanche, is petitioning for 10 days’ paternity leave to be provided for men under the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.
Currently, SA men are afforded only three days’ ‘family responsibility leave’ a year.
Terblanche has submitted a petition to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), with the NCOP confirming to the Times in Cape Town that the petition has been referred to the committee for discussion.
Levy, of labour relations & employment law consultancy, Andrew Levy Employment, noted that there is no law for maternity leave in SA, for women. What the law provides for is that they can take up to four months leave, and they cannot be asked to leave because of pregnancy.
And while many employers may choose to pay towards the leave, it’s not law, he stressed.
He said that when looking at overseas practice, for both maternity and paternity leave, the country tends to lag somewhat behind.
He said that firms struggle to retain skilled employees, the attractions of providing benefits like some form of paternity leave can be used. “A number of companies do this anyway,” the legal expert said.
Levy said that he could foresee pressure being put on government to extend family responsibility leave, perhaps over the next five years.
“The initial focus will be on women, making payment for maternity leave, a legal requirement, but I think that is going to be quite a long way away,” he said.
Levy warned that business does tend to resist anything that has a cost. “With regard to paying extended maternity leave, I think the resistance will be even stronger. All in all, it’s not something employers are going to welcome at all.”
In the US, men and women are able to take three months unpaid leave.
Sweden has some of the most generous parental leave laws. Parents are allocated a total of 480 days per child, which they can take any time until the child is 8 years old. They can share these days, although 60 are allocated specifically to the father.
In the UK, a new plan sees mothers taking the first two weeks, but parents are afforded 12 months between them, thereafter. The first 39 weeks are paid at the statutory minimum.
In Africa, Kenya offers fathers two weeks, with moms afforded two months off with full pay.