New bill enforces ‘same-sex parenting’ rights, and gender-neutral parental leave

The Labour Laws Amendment Bill‚ which was passed by the National Assembly on Tuesday‚ has been hailed as an achievement for parental rights as it allows for all parents to access leave‚ regardless of gender.

According to Sonke Gender Justice’s Wessel van den Berg: “This bill is a landmark achievement for LGBTQI (lesbian‚ gay‚ bisexual‚ transsexual‚ queer and intersex) people and for sexual orientation and gender identity rights in SA, since it is gender-neutral and allows for adoption and surrogacy leave,” which was not available before.

“The bill now allows for all parents to access leave. This includes fathers and adoptive parents‚” he said.

In terms of the bill‚ an employee who is a parent and is not entitled to maternity leave‚ is entitled to 10 consecutive days’ parental leave when their child is born or when an adoption order is granted.

It also enables an adoptive parent of a child less than two years old to take adoption leave of two months and two weeks consecutively. If there are two adoptive parents‚ one of them is entitled to adoption leave and the other employee is entitled to parental leave of 10 days.

The same provision is made for commissioning parents in a surrogate motherhood agreement.

It also provides that family responsibility leave no longer applies when a child is born, and a collective agreement concluded in a bargaining council may not reduce an employee’s entitlement to parental leave‚ adoption leave or commissioning parental leave.

“The Constitution has allowed for same-sex marriage‚ but we have not allowed for same-sex parenting. This bill allows for gay parents to enjoy the benefits of taking care of their children‚” Van den Berg said, adding that although leave for fathers was good‚ the bill also provided for an increase in the percentage for maternity leave benefits and improved Unemployment Insurance Fund benefits for millions of workers.

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