South Africa: Parental leave breakthrough: National Assembly passes bill

Same-sex couples and adoptive and surrogate parents will soon be able to take parental leave, and fathers will get at least 10 days' paternity leave.

The National Assembly on Tuesday passed the Labour Laws Amendment Bill, introduced as a private member's bill by African Christian Democratic Party MP Cheryllyn Dudley. Now it just has to be voted on by the National Council of Provinces and get President Jacob Zuma's signature before it becomes law.

"This bill is a landmark achievement for LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, queer and intersex) ... rights in South Africa since it is gender-neutral and allows for adoption and surrogacy leave," Sonke Gender Justice's Wessel van den Berg said on Wednesday.

Van den Berg, Sonke's children's rights and positive-parenting unit manager, said the bill allowed for adoption and surrogacy leave, which was not available before. 

The bill provides that an employee who is a parent and who is not entitled to maternity leave will be entitled to 10 consecutive days' parental leave when that employee's child is born or when an adoption order is granted. The bill also provides that an employee who is an adoptive parent of a child less than two years old 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 of 10 days.

The same provision is made for commissioning parents in a surrogate motherhood agreement.

It also provides that 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.

"The country has allowed for same-sex marriage, but we have not allowed for same-sex parenting. This bill allows for gay parents to enjoy the benefits of taking care of their children," Van den Berg said. Read more via Sunday Times