Longer leave moulds better family relations for long-term benefits

PETALING JAYA: Seven days of paternity leave is just not good enough, say experts.

They said the acceptable period would be at least two weeks, with one even calling for unpaid leave to be mandated.

Marriage and family therapist Charis Wong said the seven-day paternity leave under the latest revision to the Employment Act is inadequate as mothers need more support.

“To me, the main role of the father is to take care of the mother after childbirth. The mother has gone through labour and will be exhausted after childbirth,” she said.

She cited Finland as an example, where there is up to 164 days of parental leave.

Parental leave refers to shared leave by both parents after having a new baby, practised in developed countries such as Canada and member states of the European Union.

Wong said longer leave for the father would allow the mother to recover well and lead to a happier household.

“Not all of us have the luxury of having a maid or assistance from parents, in-laws or confinement ladies.

“A happier mother usually means a happier baby and happier household,” she added.

Senior consultant paediatrician Datuk Dr Amar Singh said the ideal paternity leave period would be between two and four weeks, with another four to eight weeks of unpaid leave mandated.

“Seven days of paternity leave is grossly inadequate. The minimum should be about two to three weeks but up to six weeks is a good duration,” he said, adding that data shows that longer paternity leave enables mothers to recover faster from their delivery.

Dr Amar said longer paternity leave would mould better family relations, adding that fathers will more likely be involved in their child’s developmental care and needs in the long term.

He added that longer leave could also help address the issue of postpartum depression among women.

“The paternity leave benefits go beyond the immediate practical physical and household help that a husband can provide to his spouse in the postpartum period.

“There is good evidence that adequate paternity leave helps improve the relationship between spouses and strengthen their bond, often providing for longer term marital stability,” he said.

However, child and adolescent psychiatrist Datuk Dr Lai Fong Hwa said he feels that the latest allo- cated leave for fathers should be enough.

He said support “should be continuous and not only during the leave”.

“Nowadays, there are confinement homes where the wife can go to and be taken care of. However, the husband still should do his best to spend time with his wife,” he added.

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