Unlike maternity leave which is governed by the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, India is yet to finalize a policy with respect to paid leave for fathers-to-be. Paternity leave as the name suggests allows fathers-to-be paid leave, immediately after child birth. With the number of nuclear families growing in India, many companies in the private sector have begun providing 5 to 10 days off for fathers-to-be. Add to this a weekend and the employee gets almost two weeks off. This benefit is now also prevalent in government and public sector companies, which offer up to a maximum of 15 days of leave. In the west, organizations offer long paternity leave which help a father take on additional responsibilities of the family. For instance, in Italy, an employee receives 13 weeks leave with 80 per cent pay, eight weeks in Sweden and 45 weeks in Norway, both offering 80 per cent pay to employees on paternity leave. Canada gives its employees 35 weeks of leave with 55 per cent pay. Globally, it was Sweden that introduced the concept of paternity leaves. In 1974, they pioneered the concept of parental leave where both parents were encouraged to take time off when a child was born.

Companies in India have begun believing that paternity leave gives men an opportunity to develop a stronger bond with the child from birth. Policies like these are adopted to stay in touch with the present generation’s reality and their challenges. Such policies also help better employee-employer relations, enhance employee satisfaction and hence better engagement at work. It supports employees and encourages them to give their best when at the workplace. The important point is whether this is sufficient as most private companies are averaging around five days of paternity leave. There are organizations which have started extending the duration of this leave for up to 15 days as they believe it is an extension of addressing their gender issues and helps make men sensitive to a family’s needs.

Sample paternity leave looks like this:

Eligibility: Forming part of the overall leave policy of the company, a male employee who has been employed by the company on a full-time basis for at least 80 working days prior to the date on which a leave period is to begin, is eligible to avail paid paternity leave. For calculating the above 80 days Saturdays, Sundays and gazette holidays will be excluded while probation period will be included. Paternity leave does not apply to part time employees, interns and consultants. The male employee can avail 5 days of paid paternity leave 15 days before or within 6 months from the delivery date. The leave application shall be accompanied by proof such as birth certificate or doctor’s note in regards to the delivery date.
Paternity leave cannot at any time be clubbed with casual leave or sick leave. If such leave is not availed within the period, it shall be treated as lapsed. Encashment of paternity leave is not permissible.

Return To Work Requirement after leave: An employee who has taken paid parental leave is expected to return to work on a full-time basis after completion of leave period. If the employee does not return to work after completion of leave, the employee must repay a pro-rata share of the salary received during the period of paid leave.

Gender roles have evolved rapidly in recent decades, especially in terms of the place and status of women. But the evolution of our mental models of masculinity, and especially fatherhood, has been slower. Helping fathers to take time to care for their children will help children, families, and women. Fathers to be deserve their share of paternity leave. Happy father’s day!

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