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Paternity leave in South Africa

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Since January 2020, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act now makes provisions for paternity leave and leave for adoptive and commissioning parents in South Africa.

In South Africa, it is the Basic Conditions of Employment Act that sets the guidelines for fair employment.

The guidelines concerning paternity leave have been updated and now there are specific guidelines set out for the timeframe, payment, and notice periods. These guidelines also apply to adoptive and commissioning parents.

The Basic Conditions of Employment Act in South Africa

In South Africa, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) provides guidelines for fair labour practices in the country and regulates basic conditions that all employment agreements should cover and provide.

All employees and employers except for members of the National Defence Force, National Intelligence Agency, South African Secret Services, and unpaid volunteers working for a charitable organisation, need to abide by the regulations stipulated in this act.

The act outlines basic employment rights, such as overtime, working hours, annual leave, sick leave, and paternity leave. It also stipulates what should be included in the written employment agreement which is made by the employee and employer at the beginning of the employment period.

Paternity leave in South Africa

As time goes on, the regulations in The Basic Conditions of Employment Act adapt to reflect the workforce of the day and age. This is also true for the amendments made to the parental leave section of the act, which were finalised on 1 January 2020.

Before these changes, employees that are fathers could only rely on the family responsibility leave provisions in Section 27 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, which made provision for four days of leave in the case of the birth of a child, a sick child, or the death of a close relative.

Now, there are regulations for paternity leave for both parents of the child, adoption leave, and commissioning parental leave included in the act. However, this does mean that the parent who is not claiming parental leave can no longer claim family responsibility leave on the day of your child’s birth. You will have to include this day with the rest of your paternity leave.

As for what these changes entail, when you are an employee of a company in South Africa and you are a parent of a newborn child, you are entitled to 10 consecutive days of parental leave. This does not apply to the parent who is giving birth to the child, as they fall under the maternity leave section for their leave entitlement.

Timeframe and payment of the paternity leave

These 10 consecutive days of paternity leave can only be taken within a specific timeframe. This means that you can take your paternity leave from the date that your child is born, and you are only entitled to these 10 consecutive days of leave once every year.

As far as the payment for this paternity leave goes, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act states that this leave is unpaid leave, but there is also the possibility for your employer to make this leave paid or cover a portion of your remuneration during this period. Details regarding this will be stipulated in your employment agreement.

If your employer is unable to pay you for this time period and you qualify, you can claim Unemployment Insurance Fund benefits to pay out a portion of your salary. These benefits amount to 66 percent of your earnings and are subject to a maximum threshold of R17 712 per month.

Notice periods for paternity leave

It is important to understand that if you want to take your paternity leave, you are required to inform your employer by written notice of when you intend to take it and when you will return to work. This must be done at least one calendar month before you want to take the leave.

However, you are only required to do this if it is reasonably possible for you to send written notice. This means that if you are abroad, for instance, without any internet connection or your child is born prematurely, you are only required to give written notice of your return-to-work date when it is possible for you to do so again.

What the act states about adoptive and commissioning parents

In the case of commissioning and adoptive paternity leave, when both parents are included in the agreement, one parent is entitled to parental leave or maternity leave, and the other is entitled to adoptive or commissioning parental leave.

This has many of the same stipulations as paternity leave as it pertains to the timeframe, payment, and notice periods. It also amounts to 10 consecutive days of leave.

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