SA’s Paternal Leave Championing Families – A Lekker Upgrade

by | Jun 5, 2024

Hey, Dad! You’ve welcomed a tiny human into your world (or potentially you’re about to), and things are wonderfully chaotic. But amidst getting the nursery ready, becoming a certified masseur for your pregnant partner and managing the cravings as best you can, a question might pop into your sleep-deprived mind: What about your time with your little one when they finally make their appearance?

A constitution as avant-garde as ours means that policies are frequently being revisited. As we work steadily towards unpacking equality and as relationships and family dynamics evolve, many fathers want to be more actively involved in parenting alongside mothers. Many mothers are equally happy to transition back to work a bit earlier. This desire for more equitable parenting roles led to a legal challenge in the Gauteng High Court, which ruled that the existing parental leave policies were discriminatory and needed to be revised.

Thanks to a recent interim judgement by the Department of Labour, you now have a unique opportunity to share a whopping four months of leave with your partner! This isn’t just about taking time off work, it’s about creating precious memories and forming a strong bond with your little one. Whether you’re a biological father, an adoptive parent, or a commissioning parent, this is your chance to be there for your child from the very beginning. 

The allocation of this leave is flexible, allowing parents to determine how they want to split the leave (if at all. Whether opting for one of the parents to take the entire leave or dividing it into separate periods, both parents must notify their employers in writing of the chosen arrangement before the child’s birth.

That’s more than just time off work. It’s an opportunity to be a hands-on dad, to share the joys and challenges of parenting with your partner. This is a groundbreaking policy, not just for South Africa but for the entire African continent. It’s a step towards a more equitable society, where both parents have the opportunity to be actively involved in raising their children. It positions South Africa as a leader in creating a more equitable parental leave landscape, and it’s a win for families everywhere.

While strides are being made, let’s see what the landscape looks like in other countries.

  • Europe: While some European countries, like Sweden and Finland, offer extended parental leaves (think a year or more!) that can be split between parents, South Africa’s policy is particularly noteworthy for its focus on shared leave for both dads and moms. In Sweden, for example, parents are entitled to 480 days of paid parental leave, which can be shared between them. In Finland, parents are entitled to a total of 105 days of leave, of which 54 days are reserved for the mother and 54 days for the father, and the remaining 47 days can be shared between them.
  • North America: The US offers a much shorter window, with dads typically getting around 12 weeks of unpaid leave (though some companies offer more!). Canada’s system is more flexible, with parental leave that can be shared with a partner.
  • Our Southern African Neighbours: Most countries in the region still offer only a few days of paternity leave. South Africa’s new policy might just be the spark that inspires change across the continent!


The good news? No matter where you are, the trend leans towards more supportive parental leave policies for dads. The best news? South Africa is leading the charge in Africa for shared parental leave, which is a win for families everywhere. 

So, new dads, take full advantage of this fantastic opportunity to bond with your little one and create lasting memories. Remember, happy dads make happy families!  To learn more about your rights and responsibilities under this new policy, consider visiting the Department of Labour’s website or consulting with your employer.

  • "Recent Developments in Parental Leave in South Africa" Employment Law Alliance
  • "Mastering Maternity & Paternity Leave: Employer's Guide | South Africa"