PATERNITY LEAVE AND ADOPTION
DID YOU KNOW … that South Africa’s labour law does not include parental leave for adoption?
The decision to grant “Adoption Leave” is left up to the company the individual works for to decide whether to grant leave or not for adoption to its employee. Until the Bill that was passed last year(2017) and yet to become effective – On November 28, 2017, the South African National Assembly passed the first-ever private member’s bill to amend the Basic Conditions Employment Act 75 of 1997 (Southern African Legal Information Institute (SAFLII) website) and the Unemployment Insurance Act 63 of 2001 (SAFLII website) – becomes law, adopting parents are left at the mercy of their employer’s leave policy. I can’t wait for this law to come into effect.
When reading up on adoption leave I was surprised to learn to learn that even “Maternity Leave” is not a given. What I mean is, that although the law entitles the mother to 4 months off post birth of their child, whether it’s paid leave or not is left to the discretion of the company they work for. Yes, but they do still have the option to claim from UIF.
“Female employees have a right to four months maternity leave when they are pregnant. By law your employer is not obliged to give you paid maternity leave, but you are entitled to four consecutive months of maternity leave…”
The point of this post is not to address maternity leave but rather the current lack thereof reasonable time off for individuals that are adopting. Currently, you only have the option of “Family Responsibility Leave” that’s really just 3 days annually or the option of taking time off using your annual leave, if you are entitled to it. Hardly enough time for a new parent to actually bond with the child, in most cases a 2 month baby.
When we were placed with our son, between hubby and I, he had the more progressive Adoption Leave policy at the company he worked at. He was entitled to 4 months paid parental leave. We were both surprised by how progressive they were. Especially being a South African company – yes some of our companies tend to be followers. I, on the other hand, work for a global corporate but alas with a less generous leave policy but adoption was somewhat included in the policy. Initially, as per the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, I had the option to take the 3 days of family responsibility leave. However, after much negotiation, we managed to amend the leave so that I could work from home for 30 days. It was a step in the right direction. I am quite sure that once the law is officially amended that our parental leave policy will be amended to actually include a category for Adoption Leave.
What does the amendment to the Basic Conditions Employment Act mean?
The amendment bill intends to provide parental leave (10 days) for fathers and adoption leave (which until now has not been available as a right), and “commissioning parental leave,” leave applicable to individuals who become parents through surrogacy (10 weeks) applicable to only one of the adopting parents. Where currently these individuals would have to take unpaid leave or tap into their annual leave, once this law is passed the proposed bill would amend the Unemployment Insurance Act in order to finance parental and commissioning parental benefits through the Unemployment Insurance Fund. It would also provide for the payment of parental, adoption, and commissioning parental benefits at 66% of earnings of the eligible beneficiary as although the law currently covers adoptive parents, the employer is not expected to grant adoption leave.
Globally how does South Africa Compare?
There are many countries that already include fathers in their leave policy, I found these 3 countries to be leading the way and progressive in this department:
India gives fathers up to 3 weeks at 100% of their salaries for the first and second children.
Iran makes paternity leave compulsory for 2 weeks, at full pay.
Spain grants dads 4 weeks at 100% pay or 156 weeks unpaid parental leave.
Let Human Resources department know as early as possible on your adoption journey so that both you and the HR team know exactly what leave applies to you under the company policy. This way there are no surprises when you’re finally placed with your child. Both you and the company have time to plan for when you’re not at work.
Quality time with our son during those 30 days allowed us to build and nurture the bond between us. This time with your adopted child is extremely important to foster your father-child relationship.
I love this quote from former US President Barack Obama …
“Family leave, childcare, flexibility — these aren’t frills. They’re basic needs. They shouldn’t be bonuses – they should be the bottom line.”
Does your company have an adoption leave policy?