Reflecting the rise in the nuclear family trends in India and with shifting values from a gender-based society towards gender equality, the need for paternity leave in India is felt. The government needs to bridge up to the gap between the needs of the people and the prevailing laws relating to paternity leave in India. It has become equally important for fathers as it is for mothers to participate in the upbringing and welcoming of a newborn child in the family. While the country widely recognizes and agrees on the benefits of Maternity Leaves, it is different in the case of fathers trying to avail paternity Leave benefits.
The Maternity Benefit Act, 2017 protects the employment of women during the period of her childbirth and provides maternity benefits. The Act now provides for a 26 weeks Maternity Leave entitlement for the first two children and 12 weeks Maternity Leave for more than two children. The Act is applicable to women employed in both the public and private sector.
Basically, paternity leave is a leave period granted to a father before or after the birth of his child. The father remains employed during this period, and this period ranges from a few days to a couple of weeks.
India has no provision for paternity leave for workers employed in the private sector. However, it provides certain paternity benefits to employers working in the Government sector. In 1999, the Central Government 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 newborn child and wife.
- He is entitled to avail this leave 15 days before or within 6 months from the date of delivery of his 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 to the adoption of a child in India.
For the worker employed in the private sector, the grant of paternity Leave depends entirely on the will of the employer. But in the case of Chander Mohan Jain v. N.K Bagrodia Public School, 2009, Chandra Mohan, a teacher of N.K Bagrodia Public School moved the Delhi High Court challenging the rejection of his paternity leave application and salary deduction for the period of absence from school. Jain took 15 days to leave in December 2008 immediately after his wife’s premature delivery. The school said that it had no provision for paternity leave. The court held that all male employees of unaided recognized private schools should be given a salary, allowances, leave, and other benefits.
Paternity Benefit Bill, 2017
After the Maternity Benefit Bill was passed in the Upper House in August 2016, Rajeev Satav, Member of Parliament from Hingoli in Maharashtra, introduced the Paternity Benefit Bill, 2017 on July 21, 2017, in Lok Sabha. The Bill focuses on providing equal parental benefits to both fathers and mothers.
It extends its application to all establishments of the government and the private sector. The Bill also includes those who are self-employed or working in an unorganized sector where less than ten persons are employed.
The bill aims to increase the duration of the leave period, for every man will be entitled to receive paternity benefit for the period of fifteen days, when not more than seven days shall precede the expected delivery date. But this is valid for fathers expecting their first or second child only.
It also talked about extending such benefits to adoptive fathers and to surrogate fathers. The Bill asked the Central Government to formulate a scheme to be known as the parental benefit scheme for providing paternity benefit to every man and also to constitute a Parental Benefit Scheme Fund in which all employees, employers and the Central government shall contribute.
It will be unlawful on behalf of the employer to discharge or dismiss an employee from his establishment or to send notice of discharge or dismissal on such a day that the notice will expire when he takes leave in accordance with the provisions of the Act.
Policies For Paternity Leave in India in different Companies
Many companies are working towards strengthening their paternity leave policies as a token gesture for their employees with a handful of days.
Ikea launched its six-month parental policy for both female and male employees where women are given an opportunity to rejoin sooner after the birth of a child but also encouraging men to take more responsibility at home.
Microsoft India extended its paternity leave to six weeks from two weeks, with the leave allowance also covering fatherhood through adoption. Cummins India raised its paternity leave to one month and set a new benchmark among manufacturing firms.
Mercer India, a consulting leader, has seen a growth in the percentage of organizations providing paternity leave rise from about 60% in 2014 to 75% in 2016.
Juniper Networks’ India Excellence Centre, which provides R&D support to the Sunnyvale, California-headquartered corporation, extended its paternity leave from 8-9 days to 16 weeks, which employees can take within the first two years of a child’s birth.
Tesco Bengaluru offers paid leave of two weeks. If the primary caregiver of the child is a male employee, he is entitled to 26 weeks of paid leave. At Schneider Electric, male employees enjoy two weeks of paternity leave, which can be extended up to four weeks.
Male employees at Sapient India are also entitled to 10 days of paternity leave, changing its policy from five days. TVS Motor gives six days of paternity leave, which can be availed anytime during the duration of one month prior to or after the date of delivery or adoption of the child, split into intervals if required.
All employers in each area must provide basic amenities to its employees like healthy work place, proper working hours, timely rests, lunch breaks, etc. in order to maintain a healthy working culture and obtain maximum efficiency out of an employee. An employer must also pay heed to the personal needs of the employees and unburden them from their full liabilities. They should be provided with a reasonable amount of maternity and paternity leaves, which has now become part of their basic needs.
India is fast moving towards being a developed country should now ensure gender equality in childcare and child raising. There has been a significant transition in the role of fathers in the role of Modern Indian Fathers in sharing parenting responsibilities. Now it is the time to move towards the grant of paternity benefit to ensure equal participation of both the father and the mother in the future. The government should recognize the right of fathers to paternity leaves and enact new laws for the same and protect them from unemployment during this period.