Employees: Your New Rights to Paternity and Parental Leave

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The concept of “maternity leave” has been around in our law for a long time, and the journey towards extending the concept to employees other than mothers has been a long one, marked latterly by much delay and confusion over implementation of new legislation addressing the issue. 

Last year in particular employers and employees were left scratching their heads over questions such as: When will fathers and same-sex partners be entitled to parental leave? What about adoptive parents and commissioning parents in a surrogacy agreement? Is there a right to paid leave, or just to unpaid leave? And if unpaid, what if anything can employees claim from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF)?

Now at long last we have the answers. Read on for the details… 

“People who say they sleep like a baby usually don’t have one” (Psychologist Leo J Burke)

It has taken over a year of confusion and delay around when new changes will be implemented, but finally your extended rights to parental leave and to an Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) claim have fully commenced. 

Here’s an update/refresher –

  • New mothers are still entitled to 4 consecutive months’ maternity leave. 
  • New “parents” (which would include fathers and same-sex partners) are entitled to 10 consecutive days’ “parental leave”.
  • An adoptive parent of a child under 2 years old is entitled to 10 consecutive weeks’ adoption leave. Where there are two adoptive parents, the other is entitled to only the 10 consecutive days’ “parental leave” (the two adoptive parents should decide between them who gets 10 weeks and who gets 10 days).
  • Commissioning parents in a surrogacy agreement have the same entitlements as adoptive parents. 
  • The law does not force your employer to give you paid leave – the above entitlements are for unpaid leave only. So unless your employment contract entitles you to paid leave you are limited to claiming from the UIF (assuming you are a qualifying contributor). That will give you 66% of your salary subject to a standard earnings cap.

And a note for employers: if you haven’t already done so, take advice now on reviewing your maternity and parental leave policies.