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Sonke welcomes passing of Labour Laws Amendment Bill as landmark achievement for all parents in South Africa

29 November 2017 Gender Equality in the Home, LGBTQI Rights, Paternity Leave, Positive Parenting

Sonke Gender Justice welcomes the acceptance of the Labour Laws Amendment Bill (LLAB) by the National Assembly on Tuesday 28 November 2017. It is fitting that this took place during the first week of the annual 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign.

The LLAB is a landmark achievement. It will expand and improve parental leave for all parents. When signed into law, it promises to advance gender equality, improve women’s access to training and equal employment, improve families’ financial position, enhance children’s wellbeing, and allow parents and children to experience the joys of infancy, parenthood and family connectedness.

It is a milestone that the law is now written in gender-neutral language. In other words it does not specify ‘paternity’ leave, yet allows for it. This opens up parental leave to people of all sexual orientations or gender identities. Until now South African law has provided for same-sex marriage, but not same-sex parenting.

Sonke has been an active proponent of this bill. We have worked closely with many partners to conduct research and share our findings, engaged in ongoing media advocacy to create public support for expanded parenting leave, made submissions to Parliament and lobbied parliamentarians.

We are delighted that the National Assembly has signed off on the bill and we thank Members of Parliament for their vision and commitment and their willingness to move this bill forward, especially African Christian Democratic Party MP Cheryllyn Dudley who proposed the bill and the Parliamentary Committee on Labour for expediting the process. We also congratulate our many NGO and trade union partners on their tireless efforts. In particular, we acknowledge the work of Hendri Terblanche1 in laying the groundwork for this bill. Sonke was especially focused on the Labour Law amendment, and we applaud the work COSATU has done for their success in achieving progressive amendments on UIF.

Sonke’s work for expanded parental leave is part of its broader advocacy to advance children’s rights, prevent violence and achieve gender equality. In addition to our work on the LLAB and parenting leave, we are also involved in ongoing work to end corporal punishment and promote positive discipline in its place. Represented by the Child Law Centre and together with the UCT’s Children’s Institute and the Quaker Peace Centre, Sonke recently won an important court victory declaring the defence of reasonable chastisement unconstitutional2 and are now pushing for an amendment to the Children’s Act to ensure public policy on corporal punishment reflects the recent court ruling. We are confident that these victories represent a gradual shift towards enhanced children’s rights, healthier families and greater gender equality.

The Bill, and the recently approved UIF Act amendments provide for:

  • 10 days parental/paternity leave for a father or non-birth giving mother when their child is born.
  • 10 weeks adoption leave for one parent when adopting a child under 2 years. The other parent will qualify for 10 days parental leave. This leave will be granted from the day of placement in safety care.
  • Increased UIF benefits from 238 to 365 days.
  • Increased maternity leave benefits to 66%.
  • Cover workers who lost working hours due to reduced time at their work place.
  • Separate maternity from UIF benefits and claims.
  • Not exclude workers from UIF and maternity leave benefits if they are members of the Government Employees Pension Fund.
  • Include public servants under the UIF and thus be covered in the event of dismissal.
  • Include women who had miscarriages during the third trimester or a stillborn birth.
  • Allow the family and/or nominated beneficiary of deceased claimant to receive their benefits.
  • Prohibit the charging of fees by any party to a UIF claimant.
  • Allow the Minister for Labour to issue regulations for domestic workers and employees of small businesses and enterprises to ensure that they are covered.

Wessel van den Berg, Sonke’s Child Rights and Positive Parenting Unit Manager says: “We are very happy about this achievement since it opens up leave for all parents in South Africa. 10 days is not much paternity leave, but we regard it as an important starting point in what will be an ongoing conversation about how we advance gender equal parenting. We will now monitor how fathers use their leave with the new State of South Africa’s Fathers report, in order to advocate for better leave in future. Our ambitious goal as the MenCare campaign is equal, paid and non-transferable leave for all parents.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

  • Karen Robertson, Communications and Strategic Information Manager, Sonke Gender Justice, karen@genderjustice.org.za, 021 423 7088
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