Finding Out About Family Responsibility Leave 

Family Responsibility Leave is something that I can say — with confidence, nogal — I had a very limited understanding of. 

I wasn’t sure if I could take it when Arabella wakes up with a snotty nose, or if I could claim a day when a close friend passes away.

To be honest, I wasn’t even 100% sure what the term meant and for some reason, my brain always thought of it as ‘funeral leave’ for some reason.  

Thankfully, Sheldon from Optimum Labour Law is here to help me — and maybe even some of you — understand the ins and outs of Family Responsibility Leave. 

Over to you, Sheldon!  

What is Family Responsibility Leave and When Can I Take It? 

The management of employee leave can be an administrative headache at the best of times, but knowledge of the law and an understanding of which forms of leave are entitlements, and which are accruals, is of assistance.

This is particularly so when it comes to the grey area of Family Responsibility Leave. Having a readily available leave management policy in place is a critical starting point. 

This policy should outline all details regulating leave; under which circumstances leave can be taken and how this employee entitlement or accrual is managed in the different industries.

It’s only natural to use Family Responsibility Leave as an example. This kind of leave provides for an employee’s responsibility towards his or her family and can be taken when an employee’s child is born and when a child is sick. 

In addition, Family Responsibility Leave can be taken in the event of the death of an employee’s spouse or life partner, parent or adoptive parent, grandparent, child or adopted child, grandchild, or sibling.

Who Is Entitled to Family Responsibility Leave and How Much Do They Get? 

To qualify for the entitlement, an employee must meet the following criteria:

  • Employees should have worked for the employer for more than 4 months Employees should work more than 4 days a week for their employer
  • Employees must work more than 24 hours a month

Employees are entitled to 3 days of leave per leave cycle, and all unused days lapse at the end of the leave cycle.

What Type of Leave is Family Responsibility Leave?

Family Responsibility Leave is an entitlement. This means that it is given as a component of each annual leave cycle, during which the employee is employed, irrespective of the number of days worked. 

In contrast, annual leave is an accrual, in which employees accrue days of leave in respect of the number of days worked.

Does Family Responsibility Leave Differ According to The Industry You Work In? 

As Nicol Myburgh explains, there are definite differences between Family Responsibility Leave governed by the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) and MEIBC Main Agreement (regulating the Metal and Engineering Industry). So, if a collective agreement is in place the situation may differ.

“So, for example, an employee working within the metal and engineering industry is entitled to Family Responsibility Leave for the same events mentioned earlier, but in addition, the MEIBC also covers when an employee’s spouse is sick and in the event of the death an employee’s parents-in-law,” says Myburgh.

The MEIBC also makes provision for an accrual component, or at least a ‘carry-over’ of the Family Responsibility Leave entitlement.

“Thus, if an employee has not used his/her three days Family Responsibility Leave in the current leave cycle it can accrue to the next cycle. This accrual is allowed up to a maximum of nine days paid Family Responsibility Leave,” Myburgh continues.

However, the accrued portion of this leave may only be used in the event of death of one of the persons listed below, and not for a sick child or spouse or when a child is born:

  • Spouse or life partner
  • Parent or adoptive parent
  • Grandparent
  • Child or adopted child
  • Grandchild
  • Sibling
  • Parents-in-law

Myburgh adds that the entitlement is relevant to both employers and employees.

“This is relevant to employees because they are entitled to a certain amount of paid Family Responsibility Leave days and should a family emergency arise, they should be aware of the number of leave days they have access to, and under which circumstances they may be used,” he adds.

“This is relevant to Employers, because even though it may not reflect as a financial leave liability in their books as with annual leave, it may still lead to a financial loss, as this may be a contingency form of leave for which the employer has not made financial provision.”

Family Responsibility Leave FAQs

What if a close relative dies – am I still covered for Family Responsibility Leave?

No. Family Responsibility Leave does not make provision for the death of in-laws, nieces, nephews, uncles, or aunts.

Does Family Responsibility Leave cover my child’s regular visits to the dentist or for annual check-ups?

No. Family Responsibility Leave does not cover basic medical procedures such as routine visits to the dentist or orthodontist, or getting blood tests or x-rays. It refers specifically to a child being sick.

Can exceptions be made?

A company or employer can, at their discretion, grant special leave, unpaid leave, or annual leave for these above instances.

Is there legislation in South Africa regarding working parents and childcare?


That’s a Wrap 

I hope that you, like me, now have a better understanding of what Family Responsibility Leave is and when you can take it. 

Being a parent — or anyone who has a family, actually — is difficult at times and I personally believe that three days per cycle is simply not enough, but maybe that’s just me. 

As this is the final post in my collaboration with Optimum Labour Law, I’d like to thank Sheldon from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to put these posts together. The time and effort you’ve put into educating your fellow working parents has been so deeply appreciated. 

Over the past couple of months Sheldon has dedicated his time to teaching us about maternity leave, paternity leave, and the other types of leave in between, breastfeeding at work, and labour laws every South African parent should know. 

I have come out of this collaboration feeling much more secure in my knowledge of how the law has my back as a working parent and I hope you have too.

Until next time!    

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