Modern family: A guide to parental leave in South Africa

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Modern family: A guide to parental leave in South Africa

In acknowledgement of the many different structures which make up today’s modern family, legislation was introduced in January 2020 that extends the definitions and period of leave permitted to parents on the birth – or adoption – of a child.


Maternity leave for a biological mother remains unaltered, comprising 4 months unpaid time at home, although a claim through the UIF scheme will grant 66% of the employee’s regular salary for the duration of the leave.


Under previous legislation, the three day leave allowance for the second parent was lumped together with other family responsibilities including bereavement or a sick child. Now, the newly introduced parental leave refers specifically and only to leave following the birth or adoption of a child and embraces different male and female roles.


For the birth of a biological child, the secondary parent, i.e. not the one who has given birth but who may be a father, or second mother, is entitled to 10 consecutive days unpaid parental leave. The UIF will once again cover this period on submission of all the correct documentation.


For adoptive parents, whatever their gender, one may apply for full maternity leave (in this case 10 weeks) and the other for the parental leave of 10 days, providing the adopted child is under 2 years old.


Parents who have entered into a surrogacy agreement also have rights under ‘commissioning parental leave’ and the two new parents may once again elect to take the longer or shorter period of unpaid leave.


Some companies may choose to pay parental leave, in which case parents cannot also claim from the UIF, and indeed many companies may grant additional leave days for either a birth mother or secondary parent, but they may not give less time than is legislated.


We live in a complex world of non-nuclear, extended and blended families, new gender definitions and new parenting roles for men and women. Knowing your rights – and responsibilities – when it comes to maternity and parental leave will allow your employer to provide appropriate cover during your time away, and for you as a parent to enjoy more time with your children.


For more information contact Hammond Pole Attorneys: TAbbotts@hammondpole.co.za


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