This Father’s Day, Sonke and Mosaic Centre for Women propose new model for parenting leave in SA


The conversation about improved parenting leave and paternity leave is gaining momentum internationally and in South Africa. Recently, US President Barack Obama announced extended paternity leave for fathers employed by the US State Department. Richard Branson recently announced a full year’s paid parenting leave for new parents (including fathers) employed by Virgin Management. In South Africa, companies like Pick n Pay provide better paternity and maternity leave to mothers and fathers than that offered by government, and the workers’ union, COSATU, has recently endorsed this model.

South Africa’s Basic Conditions of Employment Act only provides up to four months of maternity leave for mothers, and no parenting leave for fathers. Fathers do qualify for three days of family responsibility leave, but this includes all family contingencies including funerals or attending to sick family members. The harmful message that the policy environment is sending to South Africans is clear: ‘Raising children is women’s work.’

A time use survey by Stats SA in 2010 found that women do about eight times as much care and house work as men. In addition, about half of all children in South Africa grow up without their fathers present. That means that women have a double burden of earning an income and caring for children. If men do more of the care work at home, women would also be more available to spend time on their careers and take up economic opportunities.

Improving parenting leave, including better paternity leave, is one step that the Department of Social Development and the Department of Labour can take to improve gender equality in households, and in the workplace. Both departments were mandated to explore this in the White Paper on Families from 2013, yet nothing has happened since.

As part of the MenCare+ programme, Sonke Gender Justice and Mosaic Training, Service & Healing Centre for Women (Mosaic) have worked on a position paper that proposes a new model for parenting leave in South Africa. The model is called the 1000-100-10 model and is based on the idea that the first 1000 days of a child’s life are the most important in terms of healthy development, and during this time increased and good quality of care will have the most positive impact on the child’s life.

We propose that in the first 1000 days of a child’s life, each parent receives 100 days of fully paid, non-transferable parenting leave that can be taken at any time to spend on caring for his or her young child(ren). This should be in addition to the existing maternity leave benefits afforded by the state and employers. In addition to that, we propose 10 days of fully paid paternity leave for new fathers at the birth of each child.

It is children and mothers that stand to benefit most from improved parenting and paternity leave as men will be more engaged in the healthy development of the children while also contributing to the unpaid care work and house work at home.

Therefore, as a Father’s Day event, on Tuesday 23 June 2015, Sonke and Mosaic are conducting a roundtable discussion with women’s and children’s rights organisations about the parenting leave paper, to be sure that their active participation contributes to shaping the model’s design.

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MenCare+ – MenCare