10 days paid leave is a step towards a framework where the vital care work in an infant’s life is shared equally by both primary caregivers

Photo by Zach Vessels on Unsplash

As of January 1, 2020 all parents in South Africa will now be entitled to 10 days paid parental leave when their children are born.

The legislation does not apply to mothers who have given birth since they are already entitled to maternity leave. It does however increase the level of benefits due to mothers to a maximum of 66 percent from the previous 54 percent.

The new law covers fathers and mothers of children born through surrogacy and offers 10 weeks of adoption leave for adoptive parents.

Parental leave for fathers creates a valuable opportunity for fathers to do unpaid care work and to bond with their children. When men get more involved in childcare work, children benefit by receiving more care.

MenCare co-coordinator Sonke is pleased that the consistent advocacy work Sonke by various groups and individuals from civil society like COSATU and Mr. Hendri Terreblanche has yielded this progressive legislation.

We are especially pleased that the language now applies to all parents of all sexual orientations and gender identities since the text does not refer to mothers or fathers but to ‘parents’. Same-sex couples with children now qualify for parental and or adoption leave.

While Sonke welcomes this new law, a mere 10 days of paternal leave does not give fathers the opportunity to be as deeply involved in the care work of their children as it does mothers.

The 2018 State of South Africa’s Fathers report published by Sonke Gender Justice and the Human Sciences Research Council highlights the importance of policy support for fathers’ involvement in young children’s lives, especially during the first thousand days (two years).

This involvement can establish an emotional bond between father and child for life.

Research evidence from countries that offer paternity leave supports the intuitive idea that an emotional connection during infanthood would lead to long-term involvement in care, and that fathers would then take more responsibility for their children’s development.

Parental leave is vital for bonding. Although 10 days may not be enough Sonke is urging all beneficiaries of this law to use this time to build bonds with their children.

Sonke Gender Justice and the MenCare Global Fatherhood campaign has set the ambitious goal that men will do 50 percent of the care work globally. For this, one vital step is equal, paid, and non-transferable parental leave for both parents, and we continue to advocate for this.

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