ACDP MP rewrites history

ACDP MP Cheryllyn Dudley in her office at the Marks Building in parliament.

ACDP member of parliament Cheryllyn Dudley made history last week with her private member’s bill, which will grant paternity leave to men and parental leave to same-sex couples as well as adoptive and surrogate parents.

The Labour Laws Amendment Bill is the first private member’s bill by an opposition party to be passed in the National Assembly since 1994.

Ms Dudley, who is originally from Durban, now lives in Plattekloof with her husband, ACDP councillor Demetrius Dudley, who serves on Sub-council 3.

The bill had been four years in the making, and, says Ms Dudley, is built on family values, which her party advocates.

Ms Dudley has three sons and a daughter and is a grandmother to four boys.

She believes the bill will help fathers bond with their children.

“I realised how difficult it is for men and boys to find their space in the world. This legislation opens up a little space for them.”

She had an ally in the trade federation, Cosatu, which, she said, had been arguing for paternity leave for years.

“This was clearly something someone had to pick on,” she said.

The bill amends the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the Unemployment Insurance Act and grants that:

* An employee who is a parent and who is not entitled to maternity leave, is entitled to 10 consecutive days parental leave when that employee’s child is born or when an adoption order is granted.

* An employee who is an adoptive parent of a child younger than two is entitled to adoption leave of two months and two weeks consecutively. If there are two adoptive parents, one of the employees is entitled to adoption leave and the other employee is entitled to parental leave. The same provision is made for commissioning parents in a surrogate motherhood agreement.

* Family responsibility leave when a child is born no longer applies 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.

“There will be financial implications for the state, in particular the Unemployment Insurance Fund, which will be required to pay the new benefits,” said Ms Dudley.

She said 21st century fathers were much more involved in child-rearing, and allowing men the time to bond with their babies would have positive spin-offs for the country.

Ms Dudley credits Parliament’s legal services, in particular drafter Desiree Swartz, for the work that went into producing the bill.

Ms Dudley said there had been work done on other private member’s bills, but none had gone as far as this one.

It is expected to go to the National Council of Provinces before Easter next year and to be signed into law by the president by June 2018.

And this will not be the end of Ms Dudley’s lawmaking: she is already working on a piece of legislation dealing with animal testing in the cosmetics industry and an amendment to the Termination of Pregnancy Act to make counselling mandatory.

In a letter posted on her Facebook page, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa congratulated Ms Dudley on making history, saying the “bill is particularly progressive”.