Recently, Japanese lawmakers enacted a law providing flexibility to new fathers while seeking paternity leave. In India, ever since Captain Virat Kohli informed his decision to take paternity leave, social media stormed with debate and opinions. Increased attention to paternity leave and its benefits is the need of the hour to reduce the social stigma around it and make it mainstream.
Present Status of Paternity Leave in India
While there is no legal provision of mandatory paternity leave in India, under Central Civil Services Rules (1972), the male employee can seek 15 days off before or within six months of delivery of a child. It is interesting to note, this provision extends to the cases where children are adopted. The leave is paid leave with the same salary last drawn before proceeding for paternity leave.
In 2017, the Paternity Benefit Bill was introduced in Loksabha, mandating 15 days of leave extendable up to 3 months. The bill was proposed to recognize the equal role of fathers in childcare, and allowing them time to bond with a child without compromising on providing for the family.
Recently, the central government announced that single male government employees who are single parents raising a child are entitled to ‘Child Care Leave’. Earlier this provision was only applicable to women employees.
As of now, the private sector in India has no legalization for paternity leave. Despite no mandatory provisions, in 2009 Chandra Mohan Vs N.K. Bagrodia Public School Case, Delhi High Court passed a judgment that allows paternity leave in private schools. While this judgment did not go ahead to pioneer the policy change, it does stand to show that there have been fractions in India to give men the opportunity to bond with newborns. Lack of legalization in the private sector has made paternity leave open to interpretations by individual companies.
Need of the Hour
The benefits of paternity leave will go beyond breaking patriarchy and gender stereotypes. We need to change the traditional system where women are considered primary caregivers. Though it is a mother who gives birth, fathers are expected to be present emotionally and physically for both child and mother.
The Maternity Benefits Act serves as a shield for working women, providing them with an adequate route to manage personal and professional commitments. The legalization of similar lines for paternity leave will pave way for social change.
Mandated Parental leave benefits all
In the Nordic countries where legal provisions for paternity leave are in place, a healthier social mindset is observed when fathers take equal participation in child care. Wife or female partner’s health too improved when their husbands and partners stayed with them during the early days of a newborn. Improves the parent-child relationship
Having provisions that allow fathers to take time off to spend with their infants will improve the chances of a meaningful relationship with both parents. Mandatory paternity leave can provide an opportunity for new fathers to spend quality time with the child and new moms without having to worry about work commitments.
Gender Equality benefits
1. It’s high time now that we as a society should stop reinforcing gender-based roles. The study shares several perks of parental leave. Traditionally Indian society considers women as default caregivers of children and men as breadwinners. That not only reinforce the gender-biased roles but also a growing child considers it to be a norm.
2. Creating an equal ground at the workplace: The mandatory maternity leave and absence of similar provisions for men turn out to hampering the female workforce as they face bias. Once paternity provisions are in place, it will level the field for both genders, leaving the employer with no choice but to provide benefits to either of the employees they hire.
3. Gender Disparity in India’s Labor Market- As per the Economic Survey 2020, the gender disparity in the labor market has widened due to reduced female participation. In the productive age group (15-59) around 60% of the female workforce is engaged in full-time domestic duties. Among all the reasons, such as attitude towards working women, sexual harassment, the gender pay gap, discrimination, safety, and motherhood, are glaring for women quitting work Lack of paternity leave provisions puts the entire burden of child-rearing on mothers. Traditionally, motherhood is expected to be above everything especially, above employment. Hence, mandated paternity leave will help in retaining new mothers at work.
MenCare, a global fatherhood campaign, released a report from Sweden where two months of paternity leave and 16 months of shared paternity leaves are offered. The report showed the months in which the father took leaves, the mother’s income was raised by 6.7%. The increase in income was way more than what women lost by taking parental leave.
In my concluding remarks, I would like to say, the parent-child relationship, the widening gap in gender disparity, discrimination at the workplace, Stereotypes about gender-bias roles, and paternity leave are complex issues. They need collective efforts from society to the government in various spheres and change in outlook and approach. Legal provisions for paternity leave will not solve all the problems, but it can be a reformatory step towards betterment.
The mandatory paternity leave in all spheres of employment will align India with global labor regulations and best practices.