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Paternity leave, because Dads also need to bond with their newborn babies

Paternity leave entitlement has been amended because Dads also need to bond with their newborn babies, and they need quality time to do this.

The first days and weeks of a newborn baby’s life are a time when bonding between parent and baby takes place.  Fathers can now spend those first days with their baby, and form that crucial bond – without rushing off to work and getting back to ‘normal’ life.

Fathers also need quality time with their new babies.  They need time to hold and comfort them and gaze into their eyes, contrary to the belief that fathers don’t need to spend time with their newborn baby.

The first days of a newborn’s life

After birth, a baby will stare at the faces of its parents; react to the sound of their voices.  In fact, a baby will use all of their senses at this time, and is able to identify its mom and dad.

These first days are a very emotional time, with so much to learn, and do as parents of a newborn.

It requires support from the partner who is not the one staying at home on maternity leave.  This support is provided in the form of paternity leave.

Paternity leave

The Cambridge English dictionary defines paternity leave as a period of time that a father is legally allowed to be away from his job so that he can spend time with his new baby.  You can now change this definition to say ‘so that he can spend 10 days with his new baby’, as this is what the new Labour Laws Amendment Bill states.

This means:

  • not having to get up and go to work after a sleepless night
  • bonding with the baby from day one
  • being able to spend special time with new baby and partner after 9 months of waiting.

On 28 November 2017, parliament passed the Labour Laws Amendment Bill that allows fathers to take 10 days paid paternity leave.   The bill is now with the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for final passing.  This is expected to come into effect in June this year.

What does this new amendment mean?

Currently, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act states that an employee (either a female or one in a same-sex partnership) may take four months maternity leave in respect of that employee’s child. This is paid for by the Unemployment Insurance Fund or the Employer if they provide for that.

It also states that an employee who is the father of the child can take three days family responsibility leave when their child is born. The family responsibility leave is paid for by the employer.

Under the new amendments, it has been proposed that:

  • fathers will receive 10 days paternity leave.
  • a single adoptive parent of a child less than two years old will be entitled to 10 weeks leave. A second adoptive parent is entitled to 10 days consecutive leave.
  • surrogate parents will be entitled to 10 days leave.
  • full maternity leave (four months) in the event of miscarriage in the third trimester or stillbirth will be given.

These amendments are gender neutral, available to both parents of the same or different genders.

Other benefits of paternity leave

Besides for the obvious cost benefit of having those days at home covered, there are many positive effects it will have on the family.

The sharing of parenting responsibilities is a benefit.  Fathers who take paternity leave become involved in changing nappies, feeding and bathing baby.  These fathers stay involved in child-care in the long term.  This helps share the burden with the mother.

Being involved with the tasks of changing nappies, and feeding helps the baby to bond with the father.

It can be a stressful time, and having the support of a partner is a great help.  This can strengthen the bond between partners which results in a happier family life.

When paternity leave is offered it levels the playing field for men and women.  This is in terms of how employers look at employees and their potential to take family leave while at their company.

Also, when fathers and partners are able to take leave it lessens the economic effects on a new mother’s career.  It also decreases wage loss for women.

Paternity leave tips for dads

Some tips to consider for a fulfilling time while on paternity leave.

  • Just do it – from changing dirty nappies to giving your baby a bath.
  • Help feed the baby – bring the baby to the mother when it’s time for a feed or burp the baby.
  • Spend time alone with the baby. This will help bond with the baby and give mom a break.
  • Take naps – use the baby’s sleeping schedule to assist with this.
  • Forget email and turn off the phone. Focus on the newborn and the family.
  • Communicate with your partner. The first few weeks of parenthood will set the tone for how you will work together in future.
  • Limit visitors to ensure you give the baby, mother and yourself some rest.
  • Savour the time – enjoy your time bonding with your baby.

GoSmartHR considerations

The legislation is currently before the upper house, the National Council of Provinces. If passed, it will take effect in early 2018. As the new entitlements would draw on the financial resources of the UIF, there will probably be an increase in the UIF contribution rate.

Once this Bill has been made an Act of Parliament, employers will need to review and amend their contracts of employment accordingly.

GoSmartHR has a generic leave engine that can be used to easily add new leave types such as paternity leave.

Administrators can add the paternity leave dates, submit the necessary proof documentation and allow users to apply for it on the web, kiosk and mobile.

GoSmartHR could calculate what paternity leave would theoretically have cost an organisation, based on the dependants registered over the past 5 years.  This would enable an organisation to predict the cost and make provision for future paternity leave.

The cost of paternity leave

Employers worry about the cost of having to pay employees while they aren’t working, but this leave has a minimal impact on business operations.

The cost of paternity leave, both in business and at home is:

  • A strong foundation for a lifelong parenting partnership
  • Gender equality at home and at work
  • A positive impact on the productivity of employees
  • A strong bond formed between father and child.


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