Paternity leave acknowledges role of fathers in childcare, says WAO

PETALING JAYA: The introduction of seven days' paternity leave is the first step towards providing better health protection to both men and women in the workplace, says the Women's Aid Organisation (WAO).

Its deputy executive director Yu Ren Chung said the next step after the recent amendment to the Employment Act 1955 would be to work towards longer parental leave, which will enable both parents to provide postnatal care.

“The seven-day paternity leave is a significant step as it acknowledges the important role fathers must also play in childcare.

“This is a welcome step for families, including many men who now have the opportunity to be with their families after childbirth.

“Additionally, recognising paternity leave is one step towards changing mindsets and gender stereotypes that have hampered women’s economic freedom,” he said, adding that WAO has been advocating for paternity leave through its #7daysForDads campaign.

On March 21, the Dewan Rakyat passed amendments to the Employment Act that provide working fathers in Malaysia at least seven days of paternity leave per child for up to five children, regardless of the number of wives.

The fathers must have also worked at their current company for at least 12 months to be eligible for paternity leave.

The Dewan Rakyat also approved an amendment to increase maternity leave to 98 days from 60 days in the case of private-sector employees and 90 days for civil servants, in keeping with International Labour Organisation recommendations.

Before this, the private sector in Malaysia did not recognise paternity leave for workers, while civil servants were given seven days off.

After over two years of advocating for paternity leave, Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) president Datuk Abdul Halim said it was glad that the request had finally been met.

Asked if the period of leave was adequate, Abdul Halim said he believed it was a good start.

“We have been fighting for this for more than 20 years. This policy is important to allow a husband to carry out his responsibility of providing for the needs of the wife during the first week of birth and to settle the child’s registration,” he said.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) president Datuk Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husman said paid paternity leave had been given by many employers in Malaysia even before the amendment to the Employment Act.

“The average paid paternity leave is three consecutive days.

“We don’t foresee any issue in granting the seven days, this is part of employers' contributions to family bonding and nation-building,” he said.

Besides Malaysia, other South-East Asian countries that provide paid paternity leave include Indonesia (two days), Myanmar (15 days), Thailand (15 days), Vietnam (five to 14 days), Singapore (14 days) and the Philippines (seven to 14 days).

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MEF , MTUC , childcare , paternity leave , WAO , Employment Act


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