Report on Elder Care leave adopted and tabled

It was his own personal loss and experience that moved Paarl resident Hendri Terblanche to petition Parliament to amend labour laws to allow for elder-care leave. He lost his mother-in-law to cancer last year and shortly thereafter, his godmother. His father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and his mother, Susan, with multiple sclerosis. “Our parents have dedicated their whole lives to take care of us to the best of their abilities and now it is our time to take care of them,” Terblanche told Parlybeat. He had also paved the way for the historic paternal leave amendment in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act after he petitioned Parliament.

Parliament’s select committee on Petitions and Executive Undertakings recently adopted and tabled its report in which the committee found that allowing for elder-care leave would be in line with provisions in the Bill of Rights. The committee also found that there is strong legal imperative, in the South African context, “to give effect to the proposed amendments, not only because of provisions in the Bill of Rights or the existing UIF system, but also because South Africa needs to build on the provisions of the existing legislation such as the definition of the term ‘family’ in the South African Social Security Agency Act”. The committee referred the matter to the portfolio committee on Labour for further deliberations. Terblanche welcomed this move.

In his petition, Terblanche referred to Statistics South Africa’s population estimates in 2017 showing an increase in life expectancy at birth from 54,9 years in 2002 to 64 years in 2017. This then means that as people get older, the prevalence of chronic diseases like arthritis and diabetes also increase. He argued more time needs to be devoted to take better care of our elders, but that existing legislation and policies such as family responsibility leave was developed around the role of the parent as caregiver and not the recipient of care-giving. Terblanche wants Parliament to amend the Basic Conditions of Employment Act to include “parent, adoptive parent or grandparent” in the existing section of the Act or to alternatively introduce a new leave called “Elder Care Leave” to enable employees to care for an aging parent who is sick or terminally ill.

Although the adoption and referral of the report on his petition does not yet signal a victory, the move at the very least confirms the value of petitions in a People’s Parliament. Petitions are one of the ways in which the public can get involved in the work of Parliament. Said Terblanche: “Everyone has the right to present petitions. Petitions as enshrined in the Constitution are therefore the perfect vehicle for ordinary South Africans to make their voices heard. My “Ten Days Paternity Leave with birth or adoption” petition is the perfect example.”

Have an issue you want Parliament to take up? Learn more about how to make a petition here:

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