MenCare partners Sonke Gender Justice and Mosaic suggest improvements to South Africa’s Labour Laws Amendment Bill

Andrew holds his newborn in a still from "MenCare Short: South Africa."

South Africa’s Portfolio Committee of Labour heard oral submissions from MenCare global co-coordinator Sonke Gender Justice, MenCare partner Mosaic, and others on the Labour Laws Amendment Bill on September 22, 2016 at Parliamentary Precinct, Cape Town.

The Labour Laws Amendment Bill proposes that fathers receive 10 days of paternity leave at the birth of their child and suggests provisions on leave for adoptive parents.

Sonke and Mosaic endorse the general intent of the bill, but submitted improvements, based on international evidence of best practices in paid leave policy. These expand paid parenting leave to include same-sex, adoptive, and/or male parents.

“If men are more involved in parenting, women can spend more time in economic employment. This amendment therefore provides a valuable opportunity for women to regain access to the workplace,” said Andre Lewaks, MenCare South Africa Manager at Sonke Gender Justice.

“The legislative inclusion of parental leave for all parents will increase the care available to children and contribute towards the equitable division of unpaid care work, transforming the current gendered nature of such work. This amendment and the improvements proposed will also contribute to gender equality in the workplace,” said Kerryn Rehse, Policy Advocacy Coordinator at Mosaic.

The four improvements Sonke and Mosaic suggest are:

1. Same-sex parents do not have specific legislation that provides for paid leave for two fathers or two mothers. Therefore, same-sex marriage is provided for in South African legislation, but same-sex parenting is not. Sonke and Mosaic suggest a non-gender-specific allocation of paid leave to “parents” and “caregivers” as opposed to “mothers” or “fathers.”

2. Maternity leave is currently available up to four months. Sonke and Mosaic suggest that the minimum amount of leave made available for primary caregivers be increased to six months, to allow for the World Health Organization’s recommended minimum period of exclusive breastfeeding.

3. Adoptive parents do not have access to paid parental leave. Sonke and Mosaic suggest adoptive parents should be able to access paid parental leave from the time of placement of the child.

4. Mothers who deliver currently do not have provisions that allow for their partner to support them during delivery and recovery. The minimum period for recovery from a C-section is 10 days. Sonke and Mosaic suggest a minimum of 10 days perinatal leave for all new parents. This would enable mothers to deliver and recover and their partners to share the care work.

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