Fathers express thanks for historic ACDP paternity bill

ACDP Member of Parliament, Cheryllyn Dudley addressing parliament.

African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) Member of Parliament, Cheryllyn Dudley, has made history in South Africa where for the first time a private member’s bill brought by an opposition party has been passed.

Not only is the bill on parental leave an historic event, but the passing of the bill has elicited an unusual response.

Speaking yesterday, Dudley said: “We are surprised and delighted at the number of calls and communication from fathers all over South Africa since the passing of the bill. Even though we were aware that moms and dads were feeling the need for this, we did not realise just how much fathers have been feeling deprived of not being at home to support their wives and welcome and bond with their newborns.”

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Speaking in support of the bill, Rev Kenneth Meshoe, ACDP Leader, said: “In a country where fathers have historically been separated from their families, and survival necessitated an acceptance of not being able to bond and be hands on in their day to day upbringing — initiatives that facilitate the involvement of fathers in their children’s lives are welcomed and encouraged by the ACDP.”

The party has worked for many years to protect and defend children — their right to life, their wellbeing, their right to be free from maltreatment, neglect, abuse and degradation, and their right to have a home and a loving family. In thanking Hon Dudley on her vision and work in bringing this important piece of legislation into being, Rev Meshoe said, “The ACDP values families and the important role they play in shaping a stable society, and we are grateful for this opportunity to inspire legislative reform which we believe will positively impact on the lives of children in South Africa.”

Fathers play an important role in the upbringing of their children and the research done by the ACDP left them in no doubt that the provisions contained in the bill would facilitate early bonding between fathers and their children and that stronger and healthier families would be one of the many potential benefits for society as a whole.

The bill, The Labour Laws Amendment Bill, has been in the making for the past four years. It is drafted in line with ACDP policy on family values, the green paper on family and as a result of appeals made to the ACDP by fathers who felt strongly that provision should be made in law for “paternity leave”.

Provisions under the new bill
The bill amends the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the Unemployment Insurance Act and corrects obsolete references to the Acts. It provides that:

  • an employee who is a parent and who is not entitled to maternity leave, is entitled to ten consecutive days parental leave when that employee’s child is born or when an adoption order is granted.
  • an employee who is an adoptive parent of a child who is less than two years is entitled to adoption leave of two months and two weeks consecutively. If there are two adoptive parents, one of the employees is entitled to adoption leave and the other employee is entitled to parental leave. The same provision is made for commissioning parents in a surrogate motherhood agreement.
  • family responsibility leave when a child is born no longer applies and a collective agreement concluded in a bargaining council may not reduce an employee’s entitlement to parental leave, adoption leave or commissioning parental leave.

Dudley said she was also inspired by a radio interview she heard in which Cosatu were arguing on behalf of working men and women for paternity leave. They played a positive role in championing the initiative.

In Parliament last week thanking members of the ACDP and Parliament who contributed to the bill and its passing, Dudley gave praise: “I thank my God who is not only able but has done exceedingly, abundantly above and beyond all we could hope or even imagine!”

The bill also sets out the requirements for the right to parental, adoption and commissioning parental benefits as well as when the entitlements commence. It further provides for the application for benefits and the payment thereof. There will be financial implications for the State, in particular the Unemployment Insurance Fund, which will be required to pay the new benefits.

In concluding, Rev Meshoe said: “It is important for legislators to stay in tune with people in all sectors of society and take steps to ensure legislation keeps pace with and addresses the needs of the people in a way that is meaningful to them. It is a remarkable achievement in that Hon Dudley is the first opposition member of our democratic Parliament to have a private member’s proposal reach this point in the legislative process.”

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