Calls for extension of paternity leave

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pretoria - A preparatory meeting ahead of the 53rd session of the United Nations Commission of the Status of Women to be held next month, has urged Government to review its policies on paternity leave.

Reporting on the preparatory meeting, Minister in the Presidency, Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said Government was asked to look at reviewing current legislation on paternity leave to allow men more time to care for the newborn baby, as well as for bonding.

The current three days of paternity leave, the minister said, was insufficient for a father to be trained on the care and nurturing of a newborn baby. "They can hardly learn how to change the baby's nappy and make a bottle," she said.

"[The meeting] noted that while we have a very forward looking Labour Relations Act, which puts workers rights at the top of the agenda, the issue of maternity leave and paternity leave must be reviewed in line with these commitments and towards addressing the equal and shared responsibilities between men and women."

The minister said male responsibilities should be emphasised to lessen the daily burden of domestic responsibilities brought to bear chiefly on women.

She added that Government was asked to encourage a paradigm shift in that employees of both sexes were given the same opportunities to organise their family and work responsibilities through flexible working hours, parental and family responsibility leave.

"A more equal sharing responsibility between men and women will promote a better quality of life," the minister said.

Regarding the proposed days for paternity leave, the minister said this should be left to a public process.