A recent conference between various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and trade unions, include Cosatu, has resulted in calls for an increase in the length of maternity leave afforded to working mothers. The respective groups have called for maternity leave to be extended to 11 months, in order to allow mothers the appropriate time to bond with their children. Under the current legislation, working mothers receive a maximum four months of maternity leave.
Although not present at the gathering, Patrick Godana of the NGO Sonke Gender Justice, said his organisation had been running a campaign called Mencare, aimed at addressing gender equitable parenting. Part of the policy of this campaign was to bring about a review of the current legislation on parental leave.
He expressed his organisations full support for the calls for 11 months of maternity leave for women and also reiterated calls for the implementation of 10 days paternity leave for fathers as well.
“After our engagement with fathers at parenting schools set up across the Western Cape, we got the sense that fathers want to have time with their own families, particularly their own children, so they can also participate in the child’s growth and development,” he explained.
Godana said the current legislation failed to consider the fact that fathers also had a role in child development, and child caring. Hence the calls for paternity leave as well. The NGO were promoting the idea of merging the maternal and paternal leave, into a genderless “parental leave”.
He referred to Pick and Pay and Makro, as two companies already implementing the 11 months maternity leave for its employees.
“Pick and Pay is one of those that allows 11 months of maternity, 9 months of which are paid and the other two are not paid. Pick and Pay and Makro have given us an example of employers having the well being of their own staff members at heart,” he said.
He added that for many companies, the interest was on the profit and what the employees could do for them, and not as much on the well-being of those employees.
The calls have not been met without scepticism however, with the senior policy consultant at the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry suggesting an increase in maternity leave would make women seem less employable for companies. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)