This was stated by Lemias Mashile, chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Labour after the bill was signed into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa last week.
Mashile said the bill is important in the context that it started as a private member’s bill.
“The committee is confident that the bill responds adequately to the current and changing socio-economic conditions that are prevalent in the country,” Mashile said.
He also encouraged parents to take full advantage of the new law to the benefit of individuals and families.
“The committee remains of the view that the amendments are necessary to improve bonding between parents and the child and strengthen family relations,” said Mashile.
Independent gender specialist Kerryn Rehse said the bill makes provision for parental leave for all parents, including fathers, and both biological and adoptive parents.
“Prior to the signing of this bill, parental leave for fathers was limited to availability of family responsibility leave (available to all employees) and adoptive parents were not included in maternity leave benefits,” says Rehse.
She said the bill further provides for the payment for parental leave to be claimed through the Unemployment Insurance Fund.
“Previously the potential loss of income was cited as a possible deterrent for men taking up parental leave,” said Rehse.
This is a monumental step forward in realising gender equality in South Africa, said Rehse, as research also shows that a man who is an engaged parent is less likely to use violence in the home.
“Equal parental leave provisions for women and men will also contribute to increased gender equality in the home, as parental responsibility and leave is now recognised for men and women by law,” she said.
She encouraged businesses to fully embrace the new provisions and suggests parental leave provisions for fathers and adoptive parents be increased beyond that which is prescribed in the legislation.
“I would even suggest that companies engage their own employees to restructure their human resources policies,” Rehse said.
She added that the first 1000 days of a child’s life are the most crucial for development.
“The positive engagement of both parents during this time contribute to the successful negotiation of developmental milestones,” she said.