Seven-day paternity leave to be brought up to Cabinet

pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

THE proposal to allow seven-day paternity leave for working fathers in the private sector will be tabled to the Cabinet for deliberation, said Human Resource Minister M Kulasegaran (picture).

The minister, who had initially proposed for a three-day paternity leave, said the matter will be discussed following calls by certain quarters asking for an increase of days in paternity leave.

The proposed amendments to the Employment Act 1955 will also cover the 90-day maternity leave for women.

“The suggestions for a seven-day leave would be considered, but the proposal for three days is still awaiting the Cabinet’s approval.

“We take note of what you have said and we share your sentiments,” he said when met with 30 representatives from the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) at the entrance of the Parliament building yesterday.

“I hope to table amendments to the law during the current Parliament meeting which lasts till December.

“If not, it will be done in the next meeting in March next year,” he told reporters yesterday.

Kulasegaran was accompanied by Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh, Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Sim Tze Tzin and Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil.

The minister also said it has not been easy to get employers’ agreement for the existing proposal.

Currently, paternity leave for fathers in the private sector is subject to the firm’s discretion.

WAO, led by its ED Sumitra Visvanathan, handed over a petition to press for paternity leave in the private sector to be extended from three days to seven days, similar to the current privileges enjoyed by civil servants.

The petition, launched in June this year, has collected over 39,000 signatures.

“The three days of paternity leave proposed by the government is a positive step, but it is simply not enough. Fathers in the private sector deserve at least seven days of paternity leave, similar to the existing paternity leave in the public sector,” Visvanathan said.

Television personality and child advocate Daphne Iking, who was also present at the petition hand-over, highlighted the importance of paternity leave in encouraging shared parenting.

“I am fighting for at least seven days of paternity leave to allow more fathers to play an active role during childbirth and to be there with the mother, so they both can adjust and share the responsibility of taking care of the newborn.

“The crucial first week also allows fathers to be more hands-on with housework and take care of the baby and other kids, so mum can get her optimum rest and heal after labour,” Daphne Iking said.

Paternity leave is common in many countries. Singapore has two weeks of paid paternity leave; Myanmar (15 days); and the Philippines (between seven to 14 days).

Under Budget 2020, the government announced a review of the Employment Act 1995 to remain relevant to the labour market’s current needs.

The review also included increasing maternity leave from 60 days to 90 days effective 2021.