Parliament discusses 'elder care' leave petition

Grounds for taking family responsibility leave may be expanded to include time off to take care of sickly parents.

South African employers may have to allow employees to take time off to care for their ageing parents who are sick or terminally ill. Parliament’s portfolio committee on employment and labour recently discussed the possible introduction of ‘elder care’ leave after a petition from private citizen Hendri Terblanche was last year referred for consideration. 

Hendri had petitioned parliament in July 2018 to amend the basic conditions of employment act (BCEA) to include “parent‚ adoptive or grandparent” in the section relating to time off work. In the petition, Hendri suggested that employees should get three days paid leave, or six weeks of unpaid leave when a parent or adoptive parent was ill.

He said in the letter: "As the population in South Africa ages, more time needs to be devoted to taking care of our elders. 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 our parents to the best of our abilities." 

Hendri argued that this amendment would also be covered by the Bill of Rights and the Constitutional right to dignity.

Currently, the BCEA  provides for an employee to take ‘family responsibility leave’ only in instances where an employee’s child is born, an employee’s child or adopted child is sick, or there is a death of a close family member to the employee.