A state owned agency seems intent on wasting money after requesting leave to appeal a recent judgement granting a Pietermaritzburg gay dad ‘maternity leave’.
According to the Sunday Times, the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) has decided to challenge the groundbreaking March ruling that saw the Durban Labour Court agreeing that the agency had discriminated against a gay staff member.
Judge David Gush said that the man, an IT specialist who decided with his husband to be the primary caregiver to their then newly born surrogate child, was entitled to the same amount of paid leave as a mother.
The judge stated that the basis for granting maternity leave should not just be to assist a recovering mother but should also be in the best interests of the child’s development.
The court ordered SITA to pay the man for the two months of unpaid leave that he took.
SITA, however, continues to argue that the man did not experience any of the birth-related challenges associated with becoming a mother and thus is not entitled to the benefit.
No date has yet been set for the court to hear the agency’s application for leave to appeal.
If the Labour Court judgement is upheld, it could change how companies draw up parental leave policies and could lead to changes in South Africa’s Basic Conditions of Employment Act.
Under the act, pregnant workers are entitled to at least four consecutive months of maternity leave. The law does not address leave for fathers, other than allowing for three days of family responsibility leave following the birth of a child.
SITA was established by the government in 1999 to consolidate and coordinate the state’s IT resources. While it is a private company the government is the sole shareholder.
According to an October 2014 Business Day report, the agency has been “bedevilled by corruption, poor internal controls and instability in its top echelons.” An employee survey at the time showed that staff morale was low, with up to 86% not motivated.
SITA’s move to appeal the judgement is an attempt to justify discrimination against same-sex families, will squander resources, and is unlikely to help in boosting sorely-needed staff morale.