A high court in South Africa ruled that both parents must have shared parental leave of four months, giving moms and dads the liberty to choose how to divide those precious moments with their newborn or adopted child.
“It raises the bar on leave for parents in a wonderful way,” says Wessel van den Berg, MenCare officer at Equimundo, a gender equality organization. “I’m thrilled our law is becoming more in line with our constitution.”
South Africa is the first African country to introduce shared parental leave. Mothers were allowed a four-month leave, and fathers or partners, a maximum of ten days. Over the past two decades, many African nations have guaranteed paid leave for fathers, but in many countries, it remains between two or three days off and less than three weeks. This ruling is hailed as “a significant milestone,” the new generation of South African men is looking for a more liberal stance that doesn’t sacrifice the mother’s maternity leave. Indeed, there is a desire for an extra portion of non-transferable “use it or lose it” leave for both parents that don’t cut into the shared leave period, like in Sweden and Spain. “The journey is far from over, but this judgment represents a promising step toward a more equitable and balanced caregiving landscape in South Africa.”