On 28 November 2017, the National Assembly passed the Labour Laws Amendment Bill (“Bill”). The Bill seeks to provide for parental leave, adoption leave and commissioning parental leave. It also provides for the payment of parental benefits, as well as commissioning parental benefits from the Unemployment Insurance Fund.
In terms of the Bill, an employee who is the parent of a child is entitled to at least 10 consecutive days of parental leave, which commences on the day the child is born or adoption is granted. If an adopted child is below the age of two, an employee is entitled to at least 10 consecutive weeks of adoption leave, which starts on the day the adoption order is granted. For a surrogate motherhood agreement, a commissioning parent is also allowed at least 10 consecutive weeks of leave, which begins on the date of childbirth.
Only one parent may take adoption or commissioning parental leave (both 10 weeks). The other must take parental leave (10 days). However, the decision as to which parents takes what types of leave, is left at the discretion of the parents.
The Bill amends the Basic Conditions of Employment Act No 75 of 1997, so that a collective agreement may not reduce an employee’s entitlement to parental, adoption or commissioning parental leave.
Parents may now claim parental, adoption or commissioning parental benefits from the Unemployment Insurance Fund. The Bill also increases unemployment insurance benefits from 238 days to 365 days and increases maternity benefits to 66% of the earnings of the employee at the date of the application for unemployment insurance benefits.
However, only one may apply for adoption or commissioning parental benefits; the other must claim parental benefits. For fathers to claim, they must be legally registered as the child’s father as per the Children’s Act No 38 of 2005.
These amendments are a welcome change for new parents, especially fathers, same-sex couples and parents that adopt or make use of surrogacy. The Bill will be referred to the National Council of Provinces and if passed there, will be submitted to the President for assent.