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Indian mothers get leave, but what about the fathers? PDF Print E-mail
(1 Vote)
Written by Insiya Amir   

Paternity leave remains a grey area in India but it may be vital if we are to have modern happy families

On April 13, the Delhi High Court heard a petition by Chandramohan, a post-graduate commerce teacher at an unaided public school in Delhi. Chandramohan was challenging the rejection of his application for paternity leave. His salary had been docked by the school’s management.

Chandramohan may be distressed but there are others who think he is lucky. One of these is Sachin Mehta, who suffered at corporate hands on the vexed issue of paternity leave.

Father's Day OffHe says Chandramohan “at least has some grounds to fight in court”. Mehta could not. He was not granted paternity leave by his company and couldn’t challenge this because private sector companies do not have to.

Paternity leave remains a grey area for government as well. Six months maternity leave is available to female employees of the central government.

An additional two years leave for childcare is also allowed. In 1997, the fifth pay commission introduced 15 days of paternity leave for central government employees but hardly anyone takes it because many employees remain unaware of the provision.

This is why Vinay Kargaonkar became something of a hero when he became the first Mumbai Police officer to take a month’s paternity leave in 2007. He was surprised to make headlines and went on record to wonder why no man had ever taken paternity leave in the 10 years since it was introduced.

India’s apparent lack of enthusiasm for paternity leave stands in stark contrast to the rest of the world. A UK watchdog recently recommended cutting statutory maternity leave from nine months to six in order to award more paid time off to new fathers to spend with their children. Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission has also said it wants to see more sharing of paid leave between parents.

Laywer Praveen Agarwal says it is a mistake for modern India to discount the importance of paternity leave.

“Some companies grant paternal leave but there are many that don’t. But paternal leave is very important in the nuclear family set-up. And the corporate sector should understand that”. He says the importance of paternity leave is best understood by the fact that the RBI routinely gives it to the man even if the new addition to the family is adopted.

Psychologist Vandana Singh, who works in the Child Mental Health Unit at Delhi’s Vidyasagar Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences, says paternity leave is important for everyone in the family — not just the child but the mother as well. “It was understandable to not have paternity leave in the joint family system when there were alternate support systems for the mother. But now, in the nuclear family system, the mother needs the father more than ever,” she says. New fathers can do much more than minding baby. They could look after visitors and do household chores. Recent studies suggest that babies learn to recognize the father almost as much as the mother. But Indian employers, both in the private and public sector need to do their bit to make for modern happy families.

 



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