• The Labour Co. Team

10 day paternity leave a victory for dads, workers

When President Cyril Ramaphosa proclaimed the new law allowing fathers more time to spend with their newborns on January 1, Cape Town citizen Hendri Terblanche felt very privileged.

“I am thankful for the privilege and the opportunity to have played a small part in it,” Terblanche said in an interview with Independent Media.

He recalled that the journey dates back to 2014 when he petitioned the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) calling for biological and adoptive fathers to get 10 days’ paternity leave.

“So it was a step in the right direction,” Terblanche said.

He also wrote letters to individual MPs at the time, encouraging them to draft a bill for consideration by the national legislature.

“That is when honourable Cheryllyn Dudley, from the ACDP, invited me to come and write the Labour Laws Amendment Bill with the legal adviser of Parliament,” he said.

The amendment law came into operation on New Year’s Day after Ramaphosa signed the proclamation that was published on December 23.

The new legislation entitles working fathers to 10 days of parental leave. It also provides for 10 weeks of adoption leave to workers with adoptive children who are below 2 years old and commissioning parental leave of 10 weeks.

The bill was passed by the National Assembly in November 2017 and by the NCOP in August 2018.

Although Ramaphosa signed it into law in November 2018, it waited until three days ago to come into operation. Terblanche said in the past fathers had to take three days of family responsibility to take care of their children and spouses or partners.

“The family responsibility leave actually changed the role of a father from primary caregiver to a secondary caregiver. The father could not be as involved as he would have liked to be involved.

“He also said the father could now take better care of his newborn and also fulfil his duties towards his spouse or partner, especially if the mother gave birth through C-section.

Terblanche said there was a delay in the new law coming into operation despite an agreement that it would be implemented in January 2019.

“We found out that the Unemployment Insurance Fund was not ready for implementation. “

It was a bit disappointing but at the end of the day it was implemented from January 2020,” he said.

Terblanche said the formulation of the legislation just showed how ordinary South Africans could achieve if they all worked together. He mentioned Cosatu, African Christian Democratic Party, Sisonke Gender Justice and others.

Dudley, now a former MP, said she too was delighted that the law finally came into operation.

Describing the Act as “a great piece of legislation”, she said: “One of the biggest issues, that is of course, our children missed not having dads as part of their life as dads can be.”

Cosatu has hailed the legislation as a historic and long-fought victory for workers. “It’s a huge step to build a modern nation.

We are pleased that the government responded to our call for this progressive law,” labour federation parliamentary co-ordinator Matthews Parks said.

He urged employers to embrace the spirit of the new law, to ensure that human resources departments were fully on board, to ensure they are ready to implement it and not create any difficulties for workers.

He added that employers who defied the new law should be taken to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, Labour Court and the Department of Employment and Labour for compliance.

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