Paternity leave proposal good, but 3 days insufficient — Fatimah

Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah

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By Karen Bong

KUCHING, June 18: Minister of Welfare, Community Well Being, Women, Family and Childhood Development Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah fully supports the proposal to give fathers working in the private sector three days of paternity leave.

“But honestly, three days are not enough because of the overwhelming responsibilities, tasks and things involved from prenatal to giving birth and after birth,” she told reporters when met at her office today.

Fatimah highlighted that at least five to seven days of paternity leave should be allocated to enable fathers to not only enjoy that precious moment but also time to manage things and settle in before refocusing on work.

She shared that fathers working in the private sector would normally take leave as there were so many things that needed to be done from the moment their wives went into labour and after birth, including looking after both mothers and newborns, attending to medical appointments, taking care of other children’s needs and house chores.

“Three days are barely enough to get by, but what if a child needs further attention like for jaundice and other conditions?” she pointed out.

Currently, in Malaysia, fathers in the private sector are not legally entitled to any paternity leave, while fathers in the public sector enjoy seven days of paid paternity leave.

The Human Resources Ministry has proposed introducing three days’ paternity leave for fathers working in the private sector, to be funded by employers.

The Cabinet has yet to approve the proposal, and the government would not likely be able to amend the Employment Act 1955 in the next parliament sitting next month.

However, the proposal was panned by the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF), who urged the government to have the Social Security Organisation (Socso) or the Employment Insurance System (EIS) fund it.

“Employers should take this as their CSR (corporate social responsibility). In fact, it is a win-win situation (for employers and employees). We must look at this in the long run,” said Fatimah.

“When the fathers are given the opportunity to take care of the affairs at home, they have the peace of mind to return to work and, in turn, he can even contribute to work better and more productively.”

On the three-day paternity leave to cost companies RM157.2 million or RM52.4 million a day as reported in the Malay Mail, she countered, “People don’t give birth every day. It is part of the welfare of the workers and well being of family and community as a whole.”

Fatimah stressed that giving paternity leave is a form of recognition of the crucial role a father plays in a complete family. The father’s involvement and support for the mother during childbirth and early parenting are so important.

“Research has shown that a child has healthier development and better outcomes with an actively involved father compared to those taking the backseat, where the mother takes on the greater role in childcare,” she added.

On benefits for new fathers elsewhere in Southeast Asia, Malay Mail reported that Singapore provides two weeks’ paternity leave for fathers of children who are Singaporean citizens, with fathers also able to share another four weeks of their wives’ 16-week maternity leave. The parental leave is funded by the government.

Myanmar provides 15 days’ paternity leave, funded by the country’s social security board scheme unless the employee is not a contributor to the scheme, in which case it will be borne by the employer.

The Philippines provides up to 14 days’ paternity leave, comprising seven days funded by the employer and another seven days that can be taken from a mother’s 105 days’ maternity leave that is funded by its social security system.

Vietnam provides at least five days’ paternity leave, funded by the country’s social insurance fund.

Indonesia provides two days’ paternity leave in the private sector, funded by the employer, and one month for civil servants.

Thailand provides 15 days of paternity leave for civil servants, with none mandated by the law for the private sector. — DayakDaily