Working dads in South Africa see improved paternity leave

Paternity and Maternity legislation has had a drastic overhaul in South Africa over the past few days. On November 23rd 2018 President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Labour Relations and Labour Amendment acts into law.

Amongst other things, working dads in South Africa may now have 10 days of paternity leave after the birth of their child, which applies to biological, adopted and fostered children. In terms of maternity, mothers are now also entitled to their maternity leave if they have a stillborn child or a miscarriage during their third trimester. Additionally, maternity leave payments are increasing from 54% of the salary to 66%.

These new legislations arrive at a time of changing attitudes in South Africa, but also in many parts of the globe. Lemias Mashile, the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Labour, stated that ‘the boundaries which define traditional male and female roles are getting narrower. He encouraged a “gender-neutral” approach to parenting, where both the mother and father can be considered as “main caregivers”.’

What instigated these changes?

Some countries already advocate for more employment flexibility for new fathers, and the impact of this is not to be underestimated. Norway offers generous paternity leave (2 weeks paid leave when the baby is born, and a compulsory 14 weeks of paid leave before the child turns 3 years old), and Research from the University of Oslo “found that paternity leave improved children’s performance at secondary school; daughters, especially, seem to flourish if their dads had taken time off”. Additionally, fathers who utilise paternity leave are “more likely to feed, dress, bathe and play with their child long after the period of leave had ended”.

How will improved paternity leave affect employers?

It’s not just families that benefit from paternity leave; there are benefits for companies, too. Working parents (and any staff member who wishes to be a parent one day) will feel happy with their employer if they know they are/will be supported in taking time off to spend with their children. Retention will improve, and it’s common knowledge that happy employees work the hardest. Generous paternity leave will also mean that mothers are more likely to return to work after maternity leave, particularly if a company employs a ‘parental leave’ system whereby the time off can be shared, such as in the UK.

How varied is paternity leave across the globe?

We’ve touched upon South Africa, Norway and the UK, and indeed the discrepancies span the world over. For example:

  • In Japan and South Korea fathers are entitled to 12 months’ paid paternity leave
  • India, along with 90 other nations, offers no paternity leave
  • Spain has recently increased paternity leave from 4 to 5 weeks
  • In China, paternity leave depends on where the employee is registered for social security, and in some regions such as Shenzhen is also dependent on the age of the father’s wife
  • Paternity leave in Brazil can be up to 20 days, but companies can decide themselves whether they wish to opt into the program that offers it.

It is clear to see that there is no one size fits all approach to paternity leave. If you have employees abroad it is very important that you know exactly how the country(ies) you operate from conduct their paternity leave. It can also vary within individual countries by region, such as in China as mentioned above.

Paternity leave is just one of the challenges that international companies can face. Our free eBook, “Guide to International Payroll” covers many of the employment policies that can become pain points when you have staff abroad, and provides information on how you can stay abreast of each and every vitally important element that will ensure you remain legislatively compliant. Download it today.