Gender Commission hails historic Bill on Paternity Leave

The South African Legislature has once again demonstrated that it is sincere in its’ endeavours towards the promotion, development and attainment of gender equality in South Africa when the National Assembly approved the Labour Laws Amendment Bill, yesterday.

This proposed legislation is intended to amend the Basic Condition of Employment Act of 1997 with a view to provide parental, adoption and commissioning parental leave to employees. It is encouraging to observe that this goes further than simply providing for the opportunity for an employee to qualify for parental, adoption and commissioning parental leave. It is a meaningful piece of proposed legislation because it also amends the Unemployment Insurance Act of 2001, so as to provide for the right to claim parental, adoptive and commissioning parental benefits from the Unemployment Insurance Fund.

The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) welcomes the Labour Laws Amendment Bill because it sends a clear signal that the Legislature has a good understanding of the gender related inequalities which continues to impede the socio-economic development of vulnerable groups in South Africa. In this regard, the innovative nature of Bill will be realised on promulgation because this is when certain groups such as parents who cannot conceive but have the option of surrogacy can take steps to fulfil their dream of becoming parents of their own children.

It is a case of ensuring substantive gender equality because many individuals are prohibited from fulfilling their desire of starting a family because they are unable to access leave benefits and also face financial constraints associated with surrogacy and adoption. Therefore, on promulgation Bill will not only remove the discrimination against parents who rely on surrogacy when it relates to leave benefits but such parents will also be able to access UIF benefits as well. This dual implication of Bill will bring about meaningful changes to the gender equality landscape in South Africa.

This Bill will in particular encourage men to be involved in the upbringing of their children. It will also assist men in understanding that care work is their responsibility too and not that of women only. This Bill will go a long way in ensuring that fathers bond with their children in substantive meaningful ways.

In approving the Bill, the National Assembly is one step closer in enacting one of the most innovative and progressive pieces of legislation in the world and should be applauded for being one of the most gender responsive legislators that modern society has witnessed. Such circumstances augurs well for the people of South Africa.

The CGE regards the Labour Laws Amendment Bill as an important piece of legislation that will go a long way in the promotion of gender equality and will monitor future develops herein closely.

Source: Government of South Africa