“I am so relieved that the Maternity Benefit Act has been amended. 26 weeks is a great step forward,” said my friend – whom I was visiting at the hospital. She had delivered a baby just a day earlier.
As I was getting into the elevator, I asked her husband how many days paternity leave his company policy allowed him to take.
His answer took me by complete surprise. “We get 5 days off,” he said. Seeing how surprised I was, he added, “I could take more days off but they would be considered leave and not part of the paternity leave.”
While the maternity leave issue has finally been addressed, the problem still exists with paternity leave in India. In the absence of a law, each organization frames its own rules. At present, the All India and Central Civil Services Rules allow Central government employees 15 days of paternity leave. This also extends to cases where a child has been adopted.
Our social fabric is changing and an increasing number of families are nuclear – with little or no help available to the new parents from their families. Law makers and organizations need to take cognizance of this reality and tailor laws and policies accordingly.
In January this year, the Deutsche Bank granted employees 6 months paternity leave. Johnson & Johnson announced that as part of a new initiative, new and adoptive fathers will now be entitled to eight weeks of paid leave during the first year to bond with the newborn or newly adopted child. Cummins, a manufacturing company, recently revised its policy and extended the paternity leave to one month.
While companies like these are setting great examples, it is important that there is a central legislation which puts in place a concrete framework for paternity leave and benefits.
The Paternity Benefit Bill, 2017 which may be considered in the next session of Parliament, pushes for equal ‘parental’ benefits for both the mother and the father.
If the Paternity Benefit Bill, 2017 sees the light of day, fathers will be able to get paternity leave extendable up to three months.
Congress Member of Parliament from Maharashtra, Rajeev Satav, the backer of the bill, says in a report in Business Today, “Child care is the joint responsibility of both parents. They must devote time to the newborn to ensure its proper well-being,”
A report published by the International Labour Organization (ILO), states that, fathers who take leave, especially those taking two weeks or more immediately after the birth of a child, are more likely to be involved with their young children.
History of ‘Paternity Leave’
In 1969, a teacher in New York had a daughter. When his daughter was about 10 months old, this teacher applied for leave (without pay) for childcare purposes.
HIs first application was rejected, but he relentlessly kept appealing to all higher authorities until finally he was told that the childcare leave policies of the Board of Education only applied to female teachers.
Not giving up, he and his wife petitioned to the court where they finally ensured that the language in the leave policy was changed and made gender neutral. This man was Gary Ackerman, who was elected to the State Senate in 1979 and went on to serve the Congress for three decades.
Here’s a look at the paternity leave policy across the globe:
In Norway, parents are entitled to 46 weeks at full salary, or 56 weeks at 80% pay.
Father or mother can take up to 52 weeks of parental leave with a minimum of 2 months for each parent. If both parents take at least 2 months, the leave is extended up to 60 weeks.
A father is entitled to up to 6 months leave, of which 3 months are mandatory. During this period of leave they are paid 80% of their normal pay.
New parents in Sweden are entitled to 480 days of leave at 80% of their normal pay. That’s on top of the 18 weeks reserved just for mothers, after which the parents can split up the time however they choose. Sweden is unique in that fathers also get 90 paid paternity days reserved just for them.
Fathers are entitled to 30 days of paid leave.
While some companies have de-linked parental leave from gender by the usage of terms like primary caregiver and secondary caregiver. Most progressive companies extend their parental policies to adoption and surrogacy as well.
The recent legislation of the Maternity Benefit Act brings the benefits of working Indian mothers up to global standards. One hopes that the working fathers to are relieved from the task of having to choose between the newborn and the profession.
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