Today’s fathers are more involved in their children's lives than they were ten years ago.
Dads are just as interested in potty training, introducing solids, how to install car seats and many other parent duties as moms. We are hands-on and actively wanting to be there throughout the journey from day one, but there’s one thing that is putting added stress onto what is supposed to be a beautiful time, paternity leave!
So, what is the difference between maternity and paternity leave?
Maternity leave applies to pregnant women who are not able to work or have recently given birth. Paternity leave applies to fathers, and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act allows you take three days’ paid family responsibility leave, provided that:
You have worked for an employer for longer than four months.
You work at least four days a week for an employer, and another thing to remember is that your employer has the right to ask for proof of birth when you request leave.
Expecting mothers have a right to 4 months unpaid maternity leave, while expecting fathers have no rights to parental leave. Instead, the closest to parental leave that new fathers are allowed is Family Responsibility Leave.
Furthermore, according to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, before fathers can be granted Family Responsibility Leave, they need to meet certain conditions of employment. Only employees who have been with their employer for a period of four months or more and who work for the said employer for a minimum of four days per week are entitled to paid family responsibility leave. If the employee’s family responsibility leave is not used in the 12-month cycle, it lapses at the end of the annual leave period in which it is accumulated. How is this fair? There are countries in Africa that are way ahead of us: Kenya, Madagascar, and Mauritania are already providing family leave for up to 10 days. That’s a great start, but what about the dads here in South Africa? What about new fathers? Hardly anyone talks about our options.
So, a dad can take family responsibility leave for the whole day or a portion of that day when his child is born. If he decides he wants to take all three days to care for his newborn, he cancels any further paid family responsibility leave for that year. Imagine a family who is expecting their second child. Throughout the year, a father has had to take two of his three days family responsibility to attend to their sick first born. This means that he only has one day left for when his second child is born.
Welcoming a baby into the world is an incredibly exciting time for both mom and dad.
There is a lot to prepare and get ready for, and when the baby finally arrives, you step into a completely different world altogether. From the second a baby is born, a beautiful connection is formed, a connection that should be enjoyed, experienced and developed without the worry of a father having to leave the nest too soon.
The first few days are incredibly overwhelming for both parents, and the second you leave the hospital and set foot back into your home, reality sets in.
It is in this time that both parents need to be actively present. This is a time where both parents need to experience and learn what this new role is all about.
Nine months of preparation and research are about to be kicked from neutral into first gear, and both parents need to be on this ride together.
If a woman has had a Caesarean section, at least ten days are needed to recover before she can lift things and carry a baby on her own. If men received adequate paid leave, new fathers could step in and share the care-giving duties at this crucial time. This would also provide an opportunity for fathers to connect with their children, establishing a foundation to the importance a father’s role has on his children.
What are your thoughts on the topic?