On 26 November the select committee on petitions and executive undertakings met in parliament to discuss the case of a father’s petitioning for 10 days paternity leave. In July this year Hendri Terblanche (38), a new father to twins from Cape Town, made news by petition for the amendment of The Basic Conditions of Employment Act. He wants fathers to get an additional 10-day paternity leave, on top of the three days they are entitled to under family responsibility leave. Hendri’s twins were born three months prematurely and had to spend more than two months each in hospital.
The general consensus at the meeting was that this was a good idea, however, there were a few concerns. One was raised by Hendri, himself . He acknowledged that determining eligibility might be problematic, as 40% of South African fathers do not sign birth certificates, and many more may have children out of wedlock. The committee also said the amendment might result in a financial problem for the employer. The Department of Labour’s acting deputy director general, Thomas Mkalipi, brought up the issues around gender fairness. He explained that dividing the current family responsibility leave would create a division between men and women, in which men could potentially receive 13 days family responsibility leave, while women would only have three. It seems that Mkalipi’s statement was made not considering the already existing three months maternity leave that women are entitled to.
The committee, however, has not made a decision and is still considering the amendment. While we await the committee’s decision, we decided to take a moment to see what views some South African parents in the working force have.
Warren Conradie (31), father to a one-year-old
“I only got three days [leave], and although it was difficult, we needed the money so I had to go back. I do think that we [fathers] should get more time because as much as you need to bond with your child, the mother also needs help.
Matthew Batten (31), father to a five-week-old
“My wife and I run a business together, so one of us has to work. I, of course, have flexible hours [compared to other fathers] because I’m self-employed. But I feel that it is important for fathers to be given more time. I also feel that someone has to be out there making the money, and 10 days unpaid leave is rather long, so I don’t know. It’s up to the couple, if they can afford it, then sure. But it also can’t be so good for employers [to deny longer leave] in terms of employee performance, because if a father is not sleeping for half the night, he can’t be that great at work the next day.”
Bulelani Mvotho, (37), father to one year old
“The company I work for also offers three days leave, however I asked for an extra two days in order to be able to be there and assist [the mother of my child] for the time prior to my child’s birth. I felt that I would be needed both prior to, during, as well as shortly after the birth. I wanted to bond with my child, as a new father who was new to the experience. I would have loved to be able to be there for longer, which is why I support the petition for an additional ten days- fathers deserve the time, and mothers need the help.”
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