LEFT OUT: According to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act working mothers in South Africa may be granted four months’ unpaid maternity leave while fathers get a mere three days.
Traditional stereotypes of male female roles within the nuclear family system have long been eroded in South Africa – along with the nuclear family.

These days working mothers are also the breadwinners and more often grandmothers are the caregivers.

Fathers haven’t fared very well in society; but then again, are we giving them a chance to?

When a child is born in South Africa it is automatically presumed the responsibility of the mother.

Maternity leave, or parental leave as it is called in various countries, is widely understood to incorporate maternity, paternity and adoption leave. In some countries it also includes family leave that encompasses the care of ill family members.

In each country the minimum benefit is stipulated by law.

In South Africa, according to Section 25 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, pregnant workers are entitled to at least four consecutive months of maternity leave, that may begin one month before their due date. The employer is not bound by law to pay a salary or portion thereof during this time. 

It compensates via the Unemployment Insurance Fund, which the employee had to have been contributing toward. It pays up 38 percent to 58 percent of your gross salary, to a maximum ceiling salary of about R14 000, for up to 17 weeks.

Fathers are entitled to three days out of their family leave. However, this may be set to change to a more gender- neutral stance in 2017 as a fresh approach to maternity leave has been sanctioned by the Labour Court in a recent case.

In the US, where there is no mandatory paid parental leave, the tech giants of Silicon Valley are bucking the Scandi- navian trend of shared parental leave.

According to a report by Forbes, in April last year Twitter, which offered five months paid leave for employee birth and adoptions, extended its paid leave offering to include parents of all genders.

It became the new norm in the tech sector with companies such as Netflix, Microsoft, and Amazon announcing improved policies.

While these companies attempt to close the gender gap and offer equal rights to both parents, others such as credit card company American Express have one-upped them, offering generous financial assistance for adoption and surrogacy.

At Deloitte, new parents and those caring for ill family members alike are now eligible for four months of paid leave. Factoring in short-term disability, birth mothers can now take six months off in total, reported Forbes.

In the UK parents of a newborn child or an adopted child can take up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay that can be shared between parents.

According to Business Insider, new parents in Sweden are entitled to 480 days of leave at 80 percent of their normal pay. That’s above and beyond the 18 weeks reserved just for moms and 90 days paid leave reserved for dads.

Parents can split the remaining time between them.

It’s a system that supports families.

In Finland after a child turns three, parents can take partial care leave in which they split time between home and work until the child enters Grade 2.

Hopefully the South African law will be amended soon.

Some companies like Woolworths include foster arrangements for same-sex couples, regardless of whether they are male or female. In the case where both parents are employed by the company, they may share up to six months maternity leave.

MTN offers six months paid maternity leave for new moms, but just three days paternity leave for dads. Herein lies the crux of the matter – new dads need just as much time to bond with baby.

A few days just aren’t enough for new dads.

A recent study by Emory University in the US showed that hands-on fathers who cuddle and play with their newborns develop a stronger bond with them.

It all comes down to oxytocin. Also known as the “cuddle hormone”, the chemical increases empathy and motivation to care for a child, and in turn synchronises a father’s emotions with that of his children, the study concluded.

The hormone is released by mom when breastfeeding, but now experts realise it occurs in fathers as well when they hold and play with baby.

According to the State of America’s Fathers report in 2016, fathers who take a reasonable amount of paternity leave and spend more time with baby tend to be in more secure relationships, while their partners are less likely to experience post-partum depression.

* To find out more about Maternity leave and UIF visit www.labour.gov.za