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Father appeals for law to grant paternity leave

INVOLVED: A Cape Town man is fighting the cause of fathers of newborns, petitioning for 10 days' paternity leave.

South Africa law provides for maternity leave so a mother can bond with and care for her newborn child, but makes no provision for paternity leave. This may change in the near future, due to Capetonian Hendri Terblanche and his petition to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for the introduction of 10 days' paternity leave for fathers of newborns.

Terblanche's twin sons spent a lengthy period of time in intensive care due to a premature birth and he was not permitted to take leave during this period, aside from the family responsibility leave provided for in section 27 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997. This provision is limited, in that fathers may take only three days' leave a year for the birth of their child or when their child is ill. In Terblanche's case, he could not be present for the lengthy period his twins remained in intensive care due to these limiting leave provisions.

Since Terblanche petitioned the NCOP, there has been growing support for the law to be amended to provide fathers with a reasonable opportunity to bond with their newborn children. Non-profit organisation Sonke Gender Justice (SGJ) has come out in full support of amending the law to include 10 days' paternity leave for fathers, as requested by Terblanche.

"South Africa appears to be lagging behind in its laws regarding paternity leave in Africa. Numerous African countries have already acknowledged the significant role of fathers in the early stages of childhood by offering paternity leave. Ghana, Kenya and Cameroon all provide for paternity leave with Kenya providing for up to 14 days' paternity leave," says Arnold.

"This is increasingly important as the modern family may no longer consist of a housewife and a working father. Mothers often work full time, single fathers are on the rise and two fathers in partnership parenting a child is now a common occurrence. Households are increasingly progressive and gender-neutral and the law has not caught up."

Three years ago, the University of Cape Town (UCT) set a precedent when it granted its employee, Douglas Newman-Valentine, paternity leave to bond with his adopted daughter. His partner, Marlow Newman-Valentine, also had his paternity leave approved by his employer.

Unfortunately for Terblanche, this paternity leave was granted at the discretion of the employers.

However, there appears to be some progress since the petition by Terblanche to the NCOE A white paper on families has been drafted by the Department of Social Development with input from Sonke Gender Justice. It recommends that paternity leave should be included in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

It has been signed off by the cabinet and is assumed to be coming up for discussion.

The final draft of the paper recommends that fathers be involved in their children's upbringing, and that the introduction of paternity leave by law be considered.

"Despite the apparent progress relating to paternity leave, there are other noteworthy lacunas in the law surrounding parental rights. Paternity leave for adopted children should also be considered, as well as family responsibility leave for parents who are in the process of adopting but officially only foster parents to the children to be adopted.

"Currently no family responsibility leave is afforded to parents who are fostering children. If parents, whether they be biological or not, want certain areas of the law relating to parental rights to be considered for amendments, it is recommended that they adopt the approach by Terblanche to bring light to the issues not yet up for discussion," says Arnold.


SOURCE: CAPE TIMES, Career Times 29 Sep 2014, Page: p.4

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