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Father, you are eligible - paternity leave PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Aparna.Chandra   

The Central government deems it necessary for its male employees to avail 15 days of paternity leave to bond with their newborn, while most private companies are still debating paternity leave

When asked to fill up an employee suggestion form at iRunway (a technology litigation consulting firm), 27-year-old delivery manager and bachelor Kalyan Banerjee added a request for paternity leave. Though Kalyan is planning to get married only later this year, he asks: “Why shouldn’t a father be a part of those precious first moments with his child?” iRunway has taken cognizance of his suggestion. Says its HR head Vineet Sharma, “We have agreed in principle on the issue and are in the process of figuring out the modalities such as the number of days to be sanctioned and scale of payment.” 

Paternity leave (paid or unpaid leave given to a male employee when a child is born) became a talking point in India almost a decade ago. Not many in this country are aware that the Central government has a mandated paternal leave policy. The Central Government in 1999 by notification under Central Civil Services (Leave) Rule 551 (A) made provisions for paternity leave for a male Central Government employee (including an apprentice and probationer) with less than two surviving children for a period of 15 days to take care of his wife and new born child. He can avail this leave 15 days before or within 6 months from the date of delivery of child. If such leave is not availed within the period, it shall be treated as lapsed. For paternity leave he shall be paid leave salary equal to the pay last drawn immediately before proceeding on leave. Also, the same rule applies when a child is adopted. 

While paternity leave is authorised for government employees there is no law that instructs the private sector to make it obligatory. Hence, paternity leave is open to interpretation by individual companies. Thus, on the one hand you have a Cisco Systems (India) which grants its employees 12 weeks paternity leave and on the other, you have Infosys which offers 5 days of paid leave. Some companies even shy away from identifying it as paternity leave, instead they have christened it Compassionate Leave. And then there are many companies that don’t care much for the concept. 

Devendra was working with an Indian software major when his daughter was born in July 2010. “I was asked to report to work the day after my daughter’s birth. The project was at a crucial stage. I was asked if I thought going on leave would be prudent given the situation…when your superiors take that tone you have no choice but to report to work. Luckily, my daughter was born on a Thursday and the weekend was around the corner. Still, I had to face an angry wife and her rage was justified too. The incident made me rethink my job and I eventually left the company. Being a father is not just about being a provider, it’s much more…” he adds. 


It was Sweden that woke up a snoozing corporate world to the notion of paternity leave. In 1974, they pioneered the concept of parental leave where both parents were encouraged to take time off when a child was born. But only 6% of fathers were availing parental leave. So in 1995, the government stepped in, reprimanded the fathers by introducing one month paternity leave with a caveat: If the men did not avail this leave, to be with their newborn, the families lost one month of subsidies from the government. In the hope of further amplifying the role of fathers, in 2002, the government added a second month to an already existing plan. Result? Divorce and separation have decreased in Sweden while it has increased throughout the world. 

Why is it important for the contemporary father to play more than a prescribed, perfunctory role at childbirth? “Paternity leave gives men an opportunity to develop a stronger bond with the child from birth,” says Dr Lakshmi Nair, gynaecologist. “And it helps if during that time they don’t have to worry about meeting deadlines, achieving targets, clients and deal with other work stress.” 

For Kavita Thanky, having husband Salil Mohanty, an investment banker, around just after the birth of their son Ameya ten-and-a-half months ago had been a relief. “Having the husband around helps, especially in a nuclear family. It is a time when we are trying to understand the changes in our lives as a couple and parents. The time off also helps the husband empathise with his wife’s condition and lessen expectations from her in other matters,” she says. In retrospect Kavita is glad that Salil is working in an organisation that gave him 10 days paternity leave compared to his earlier firm which had no such policy in place. 

“Today many fathers-to-be are in the labour room. In the past they were kept at bay even after the baby’s birth,” says sexologist Dr Padmini Prasad. “Earlier, the new mother would only find women huddled around her. And the father wouldn’t even think of changing the baby’s diaper. Today we have realised that bonding between the baby and the father is important. That is why paternity leave helps. It gives the father a chance to be physically and emotionally involved in the process,” she adds. 


What prompted iRunway’s decision to consider Kalyan Banerjee’s prior request for paternity leave was the need to adapt to the changes in its employee profile. “Ours is a young firm with the average age of employees being 24-25. Gradually as employees head towards marriage, their responsibilities and requirements change and we are taking note of it,” says Vineet Sharma. 

“It’s all about providing equal opportunities,” says Aditya Narayan Mishra, president, staffing, Ma Foi Randstad, an international HR service provider. “The company really doesn’t have much to gain in this except that the employer brand gets differently recognised,” says Mishra who himself availed the benefit at Ma Foi in 1999 when his son was born. 

Those who still are to etch paternity leave into the employee contracts are more often “traditional, old economy companies like those involved in manufacturing, pharma and construction. In fact, if paternity leave is missing from the benefits, one might think the company is not as progressive,” says Aditya. Such statements might imply that companies take paternity leave as seriously as maternity leave. However, that is not the case. Though there is a greater understanding of a man’s role during childbirth in contemporary times and an increased desire on the part of the modern man to be an involved father right from the beginning, there is no standard policy on paternity leave in private organisations. In private firms, the terms get decided by a variety of factors starting from the HR polices of the company to one’s relationship with the boss. 

If paternity leave needs be to acknowledged as equally important as maternity leave, it’s going to take a lot more than a sensitive boss. Not to mention awareness amongst employees. Until then, discussion and debate on the number of days and amount paid will not evolve. For instance, many of those spoken to felt that a week’s leave is too little. “I got a week off, but most of it went into dealing with hospital work. 15 days paternity leave would be an ideal arrangement,” says Shishir Bhat, an Accenture employee, who was with Altair when his son was born. Gaurav Bhandari remembers when Oracle visited his engineering college for on-campus placements. “They had stressed on how the company offers paternity leave compared to many who don’t. At that time, it tickled us because even the thought of marriage was far off or hopefully one we could all together put off,” recalls Gaurav. But as they say, times have changed! 

Paternity Leave in…. 

Infosys: 5 days paid leave, which can be availed for a maximum of 2 children 

Microsoft: 2 weeks paid leave 

NIIT: 7 days paid leave can be taken anytime within the year of child’s birth. 

Accenture: One week paid leave 

Wipro: 0 days 

Biocon: 0 days 

Omega Healthcare services: 5 days 

Datacraft India: 3 days 

Google India: 10 days 

Cisco Systems India: 12 weeks 

Paid paternity leave by country 

0 days: Germany -0 USA -0 

1-5 days: Argentina - 2days Brazil - 5 days Indonesia - 2 days Saudi Arabia -1 day 

5-15 days: Denmark - 14 days France - 14 days Philippines - 7 days Portugal - 14 days UK - 14 days at a fixed amount of 108.85 pounds 

More than 2 weeks: 

Italy -13 weeks (80% pay) Sweden - 8 weeks Norway - 45 weeks (80% pay) Canada - 35 weeks (55% pay) 

Salil Mohanty, with son Ameya, was ecstatic that he could spend time with his newborn because his company had a paternity leave policy in place


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