Speaking at a roundtable on ‘the Challenges of Fatherhood in Contemporary South Africa’ in Cape Town yesterday, ACDP MP Cheryllyn Dudley, (who promoted the bill known as ‘Paternity Leave’, the first ever by an individual member, or a woman) said there is a hold-up to the implementation of legislation which is unacceptable.

“Hard working people who have had to put their jobs above their families all their working lives have had their hopes and expectations raised and dashed. There should be no valid reason for a delay in implementation of this popular amendment to the Labour Laws Act,” Dudley said. “I am in contact with the department and trying to get to the bottom of the problem.

“We are also concerned that Section 27(2)(a), which granted a parent family responsibility leave when a child is born, has in effect been suspended by this law creating problems for people and I am interacting with the department and unions in this regard.

“I have also asked the department to produce clear guidelines for employers so that employees do not struggle to get the benefits they are entitled to and I am asking the President and the department to ensure those who have not been able to access paternity leave since 1 Jan, due to implementation delays on the side of the department, are able to do so as soon as possible.”

Speakers at the roundtable organised by the Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office, stressed the need for research and data on the challenges in this country where over half of the nation's children are growing up without meaningful, contributing fathers. It was noted that there is a need to praise good fathers and to state that not all men are violent or abusive; that men can feel invisible when their children do not honour them for being hard working providers of money, even though it may be mothers who actually buy the clothing and food they can see.

Dudley says “The bill is part of the incentive to have men desire to be good fathers and speakers said the bill will go a long way to bond fathers with their children. The leave benefits of the legislation require men to have their names registered on their children's birth certificate, (which is not the case for a great many South African children at present) and was seen as a good first step in giving men an foundation to build on in the arena of parenthood.”

Dudley further said, “Ideally employers should begin to recognize the value of parental and adoption leave and provide fully paid leave as the ACDP has done for staff in our Parliamentary office. However, when the employer does not provide for this they are now compelled by to grant unpaid parental, adoption or maternity leave. Employees then need to claim from UIF and they will be paid out 66% of their salary.

“Some unions are negotiating for the employer to cover the shortfall not paid by the UIF so that in effect the employee receives their full salary. We also recommend that expectant fathers appeal to their company to make up the salary. The most successful companies globally have found that paying attention to good policy on paternity and maternity leave has been to their benefit, as they attract the best skills, retain these skills, and productivity increases.”

Civic group representatives said funds need to be made available to work with men to change the climate of violence in South Africa.  Presently funding goes to organisations working with abused women whilst there is also a need to work with men to change mindsets and stop violent methods of expression before they are acted out.


22 February 2019