Private sector support vital for paternity leave plan

Paternity leave recognises that fathers play an important role in parenting. — Filepic

THE government is proposing that amendments be made to the Employment Act 1955 to make it mandatory for the private sector to give fathers at least three days of paternity leave.

Although men in the public sector are entitled to seven days of paternity leave, there is no legal provision for fathers working in the private sector.

Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh has also urged the private sector to follow suit by providing three to seven days of paternity leave.

However, mothers like Harpreet Kaur, 40, say more days are needed.

Harpreet, a pharmacist, needed a Caesarean section for both her pregnancies.

She said her husband, mother and mother-in-law took turns watching the baby during her confinement while she regained her health.

“Both my daughters have a very strong bond with their father, because he was there when they were newborns.”

Ista Kyra, co-founder of Eksentrika, a Malaysian art-centric content website said giving birth to her first child, and having her husband work in another state was taxing both emotionally and physically.

She said the only people who could help were her father and aged grandmother – both of whom needed caring themselves.

“Even with some help from family members and friends, women, especially mothers are expected to ‘do it all’”.

“From caring for the baby, managing household work such as cooking, cleaning and tidying, and sometimes even earning a living at the same time is tough,” she added.

Ista said she found herself in that situation right after giving birth.

“For people like me, three days of paternity is hardly enough, but having a law would help.

“I suggest making it five days, so that at least spouses working out of town can have one week with their family,” she added.

Housewife N. Redika Kanarasan, 42, also said three days of paternity leave was not enough.

Seven days would be optimal as the spouse would normally have to send his wife to her hometown for confinement.

“Besides that, fathers need to register the birth at the National Registration Department.

“If there are complications for the mother or baby, he will need to take his annual leave,” she added.

A teacher, who declined to be named, said women needed their husbands to be by their side during this time.

“If the government can provide seven days, I don’t see why the private sector is unable to even provide three days,” she added.

Self-employed Baljit Kaur, 38, said her husband, who is a doctor, took a week off from work.

“It is very important for the husband to be around.“I feel paternity leave should be somewhere between a week to 10 days,” suggested the mother of two.
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