One for The Papas: Paternity Leave Explained

Even though Father’s Day has come and gone, I’m loving putting the spotlight on dads this month. 

I’ll never forget when Arabella was born and Daddydaims had to combine his three days of Family Responsibility Leave with three weeks of annual leave to be able to stay at home with us. It felt so short, but sadly, it’s much longer than what many other South African fathers get. 

Don’t even get me started on countries like Sweden, Iceland, and Slovenia that offer new dads 90 days of paid leave — to start off with!     

Anyways, we all know that every now and then employers think they can pull a fast one. Today, Optimum Labour Law’s Sheldon Roothman will be talking you through the basics of paternity leave. 

In this post, you’ll learn exactly what paternity leave is, how much South African fathers are entitled to, what paternity leave means for adoptive parents, and what soon-to-be fathers need to know about claiming from the UIF.

What is Paternity Leave? 

On 18 December 2019, President Ramaphosa announced an effective date of 1 January 2020 for Sections 1 to 7 of the Labour Laws Amendment Act of 2018

This effectively amends the Basic Conditions of Employment Act to provide for, inter-alia, the much-anticipated parental and paternity leave. Paternity leave falls under the name of parental leave.

As of 1 January 2020 the three days family responsibility leave that employees were entitled to upon the birth of a child, was replaced with parental or paternity leave as per the Labour Laws Amendment Act of 2018. 

The remainder of section 27 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (Family Responsibility Leave) remains intact, entitling employees to three days family responsibility leave when a child (younger than 18 years of age) is sick or alternatively upon the death of a family member as listed in the Act.

How Much Paternity Leave Do South African Dads Get? 

In terms of the Labour Laws Amendment Act, an employee is entitled to 10 days parental or paternity leave upon the birth of the employee’s child. 

In cases of adoptive parental leave, one of the parents is entitled to 10 weeks consecutive unpaid adoption leave. 

Can I Take Paternity Leave if I’ve Adopted My Child?

Parental leave may also be applicable in circumstances where an employee legally adopts a child or when a child is placed by a court in the care of a prospective adoptive parent. In this regard, one must consider the definitions of adoptive and prospective adoptive parents. 

A “prospective adoptive” parent is a person that complies with the requirements set out in the Children’s Act of 2005. A prospective adoptive parent, therefore, means a person that is:

  • Fit and proper to be entrusted with full parental responsibilities;
  • Willing and able to undertake, exercise, and maintain those responsibilities;
  • Older than 18 years;
  • Properly assessed by an adoption social worker.

On the other hand, “adoptive parent” simply means a person who has adopted a child in terms of any law.

Based on the aforementioned it is evident that both male and female employees may qualify for parental leave, depending on the circumstances. However, if the employee gave birth to the child, she will not qualify for parental leave. Such employees are entitled to 4 months of unpaid maternity leave.

Female employees may however qualify for parental leave in circumstances where such employee is one of the adoptive parents or a prospective adoptive parent as per the definitions above. For the purposes of adoption leave, the child must be younger than two years of age.

Adoptive parental leave entitles one of the parents to 10 weeks consecutive unpaid adoption leave. If an adoption order is made in respect of two adoptive parents, only one may apply for adoption leave and the other for parental leave. 

Parental leave entitles an employee to 10 consecutive days (not 10 working days) leave after:

  • The employee’s child has been born
  • An adoption order has been granted by a competent court, or
  • A child has been placed in the care of the prospective adoptive parent.

As indicated, such leave will be unpaid, and employees will therefore have to submit claims to the Unemployment Insurance Fund to qualify for payment during the periods of absence from work.

How Much Paternity Leave Pay Will UIF Pay Out? 

In terms of the Labour Laws Amendment Act, an employee is entitled to 66% of his or her regular earnings subject to the maximum income threshold as per the Unemployment Insurance Act.

 Contributors will not be entitled to be paid from the Unemployment Insurance Fund for parental leave if they were not employed and contributing to the fund during the 13 weeks prior to applying for such benefit. The same will be applicable for adoption leave.

What is Needed to Claim Paternity Leave Pay from UIF?

It is important to note that in order to qualify for the payment of parental or paternity leave benefits from the Unemployment Insurance Fund, a male employee will have to provide proof of him being the father of the child by virtue of a birth certificate with his name and surname appearing on it.

A further requirement in terms of the Amendment Act is that an employee must notify his or her employer in writing of the date that such leave is to commence and when the employee will return to work. Such notice must be given one month before:

  • The child is expected to be born,
  • The date that the adoption order will be granted, or
  • The child is placed in the care of a prospective adoptive parent.

As per the Amendment, “Employers are therefore urged to review their outdated policies and contracts of employment in so far as it relates to the provisions of the Labour Laws Amendment Act.”

Right On, Ramaphosa!

There’s no denying that being a working parent is difficult. Before your baby is even born, it’s super important that you familiarise yourself with the labour laws that will either have your back or throw you under the proverbial bus. 

As always, thank you, Sheldon, for taking the time to write this post and for being willing to help regular moms and pops like me understand the oftentimes choppy water that is South African labour law.  

Until next Wednesday! 

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