As of the first of January, all parents will now be entitled to 10 days paid paternal leave when their children are born.
The legislation does not apply to mothers who have given birth since they are already entitled to maternity leave.
It does however, increase the level of benefits due to mothers to a maximum of 66% from the previous 54%.
The new law covers fathers and mothers of children born through surrogacy and offers 10 weeks of adoption leave for adoptive parents.
Sonke Gender Justice, a human rights organisation, said it was pleased that the consistent advocacy work by its organisation and various groups and individuals from civil society like Cosatu and Ward 21 councilor Hendri Terreblanche, had yielded this progressive legislation.
In a statement issued to the media, Sonke Gender Justice said: “We are especially pleased that the language now applies to all parents of all sexual orientations and gender identities since the text does not refer to mothers or fathers but to ‘parents’.
“Same-sex couples with children now qualify for parental and or adoption leave. While Sonke welcomes this new law, a mere 10 days of paternal leave does not give fathers the opportunity to be as deeply involved in the care work of their children as it does mothers.
“The 2018 State of South Africa’s Fathers report published by Sonke Gender Justice and the Human Sciences Research Council, highlights the importance of policy support for fathers’ involvement in young children’s lives, especially during the first thousand days (two years). This involvement can establish an emotional bond between father and child for life.”
Research evidence from countries that offer paternity leave supports the intuitive idea that an emotional connection during infanthood would lead to long-term involvement, and that fathers would then take more responsibility for their children’s development, the organisation said.
Sonke Gender Justice and the MenCare Global Fatherhood campaign has set the ambitious goal that men will do 50% of the care work.
“For this, one vital step is equal, paid and non-transferable parental leave for both parents, and we continue to advocate for this,” Sonke Gender Justice said in its statement.