Dads left in the cold as government fails to activate new paternity leave
Countless fathers have been left out in the cold after the government failed to make good on new legislation giving them 10 days' paid paternity leave.
An amendment to the law was ratified last November and January 1 was earmarked for implementation, but the department of labour has not activated it.
Men currently do not qualify for any paid paternity leave.
Labour lawyer Michael Bagraim, who joined the fight for the new legislation, said he was "gobsmacked" that six months had passed since the new legislation was approved.
"I have over 2,000 small companies as my clients, and I proudly trumpeted the changes in the law. Now I have had ongoing problems for months as clients are confused, and I have had to apologise, but it is not for me to apologise," he said.
Wessel van den Berg, a manager at NGO Sonke Gender Justice, said: "Data shows that in SA, women do eight times as much unpaid care work as men," he said, adding that paternity leave was "a major step forward in breaking down the stereotypes of men as breadwinners and women as caregivers", and that the delay in implementation of the new Labour Laws Amendment Act was adding to women's burden.
Hendri Terblanche, of Cape Town, began the campaign for paternity leave five years ago after his twins were born prematurely.
"We had to fight hard to get this leave in place so that dads can bond with their babies in the early days of life, which is crucial," he said.
"Why should South Africans be penalised for government departments not operating as they should?"
The department of labour referred the Sunday Times to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), which redirected the query back to the department.
Department spokesperson Thembinkosi Mkalipi said parental leave was "passed by parliament and signed into law by the president", but the UIF was "not ready with their systems".
UIF spokesperson Lungelo Mkamba said on Tuesday: "That falls within the ambit of the department of labour. We cannot do anything until they say so."
But on Thursday he updated his statement: "We are still busy finalising regulations and working around the clock to be systems-ready before we start implementation. The matter is receiving our urgent attention and we hope to start the implementation soon."
Ben Sibanda, a security guard in Gauteng, said he felt duped by the announcement of paternity leave.
"It was a difficult pregnancy and I wanted to be with my wife and baby for 10 days," he said, "but my company refused."
Sibanda used a legal adviser and a "huge fight" ensued before he got his 10 days but had to forfeit his salary for those days.