In South Africa, I understand that by law a woman is entitled to four month’s maternity leave from her employment, which may be either paid or unpaid. I don’t know the intricacies of this law, and am thus unsure what kind of female employee (permanent, contract etc) qualifies. In terms of paternity leave in S.A., I believe fathers are entitled to three days of ‘family responsibility’ leave to allow them to bond with their child, learn how to change their kid’s nappy, become accustomed to their new family, and help out their partners who’ve just had a live being ripped from their womb. Erstwhile Minister of Hell (health) and current Minister in the Presidency, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, has declared that this is unfair, and that proper paternity leave should be put into law and be upped to two weeks.
It is different in the U.K. There, women receive nine months of paid maternity leave, and the government has promised that by next year, women would receive a full year of maternity leave. Men receive two weeks of such leave. But the U.K.’s Equality and Human Rights Commission has said that this, in essence, is rubbish, and has called for this to be cut to six months’ paid leave, so that fathers can be given longer paid paternity leave.
The reason for the Equality Commission’s recommendation is what interests me. The group suggests that ‘the focus on maternity leave has entrenched the notion that only mothers look after children, and damages women’s careers by making them less attractive employees.’
Business is also unhappy with the nine months’ leave a mother is given, and one can only imagine how unimpressed it is with the suggestion that they may have to keep open a position for a returning employee for a full year. Is it really viable for businesses to do such a thing in such a tough economic climate? Or is that just the excuse business is looking for to get rid of female employees who have children because of the perception that they would not be able to devote as much excellence to their work as before?
What do you think?