Let’s talk paternity leave
Paternity leave is defined as a period of absence from work granted to a father after or shortly before the birth of his child.
In June, communications firm Flow announced that it would grant eight weeks of paid leave for fathers, adoptive, and foster parents, as well as any employee who becomes a surrogate parent.
Parliament is currently debating the Paternity Leave Act, and the topic has triggered very passionate responses from both sides.
I am concerned about the comments made by Justice Minister Delroy Chuck. In an article published on October 23, 2019, in The Gleaner, Chuck said: “If you want paternity leave, you must be living with the mother for a few months before birth. If it’s your wife, no problem. If it’s your girlfriend, then you can’t come and say, ‘It’s my child and, therefore, [I am] entitled to paternity leave’, and you not living with the mother. You would be getting paternity leave to do what? Visit her every day?”
I find Chuck’s comments problematic because of this need to police which fathers are qualified.
I think that if the act becomes law, it should be available to all new fathers, similar to how all new mothers are entitled to maternity leave.
The idea that only certain fathers who meet specific criteria are eligible defeats the purpose of the exercise, which is to create the best support system for the child.
Chuck’s assertion that the father must be living with the mother is unreasonable as that is just not the case for every parent.
Getting up for late feedings is not the only role that a father can fill.
Currently, there are relationships where fathers are supporting the mothers without paternity leave. They apply for vacation and use that time. Without living with the mother.
I think the problem for many Jamaicans is the idea that undeserving fathers will take advantage of the system.
While I understand the concern, I think we should stop using the behaviours of bad and absentee fathers to judge all.
There are many excellent fathers who will be an even bigger asset to their children and give better assistance to their children’s mothers if they had the access and time.
Paternity leave is a progressive move for Jamaica, and I applaud companies that have taken the step to offer the benefit.
I do hope we get to a place where more of us are comfortable with the idea. Let’s focus on the children and how this will benefit them and not on the men who have not stepped up to their responsibility as fathers.