Is paternity leave and wellness being neglected in the Indian workplace?

By Aditya Mishra | June 23, 2018

Stressed young father with baby

Mother gets the world of attention when a baby is born and assumes a new world of responsibilities. Employer organizations are statutorily required to offer 26 weeks’ of paid maternity leave. What about the young father who is increasingly bearing a fair share of responsibility in rearing the child? As families are increasingly getting nuclear and staying in cities away from places where their elders live, they face many practical challenges. How do we solve them?


Challenges galore

Life becomes exciting with the arrival of a new-born. Wishes pour in, shopping picks up, a myriad of new tasks come up on the to-do list, unlimited number of new and unforeseen situations crop up. Thanks to the statutory provision of maternity leave, the young mother is able to switch off from work completely and focus on rearing the baby. However, the young father has to still multi-task dealing with work, keeping family’s finances organized to cater to the new developments in the family, sharing joy and spreading it among the near and dear ones. To top it all, he has to play an important role in all the logistic support needed for the expanded family and steering the days and weeks in a balanced manner.

Very few organizations in India recognize the need of offering a paid leave to the young father to help him fulfill his responsibilities towards the new-born. Neither do we have a statutory provision for it. Some employers are benign to offer 1 to 8 weeks of paternity leave. Central Government as well as most State Governments allow 2 weeks of paid leave in the first 6 months of the child birth. A few large companies are able to offer more attractive terms.


Norms in other countries

Barring a handful of developed nations, most countries offer government support towards paternity. In some cases, private sector doesn’t provide it while the Govt sector does provide. In some cases, for high-wage employees, the allowance paid for the leave period has an upper cap to limit the cost to the government exchequer. Sometimes, a few days are fully paid while the remaining days of the leave period are partially compensated. Some countries call it a birth leave and allow either the mother or the father to avail it in full or split between them. In most countries, it is a 2 weeks of paid leave to support a young father. Govt of India must look at revamping its social support for young parents rather than limiting to maternity leaves and putting the financial load on the employers.

This support from the Government makes it easy on the employer to grant the benefit because the financial burden is borne by the Government. However, it remains a challenge for the employer firm to deal with someone’s absence from work for a long period. Mature organizations can plan their work keeping the leave in mind, however small organizations do see this as an interruption and find it annoying. However, granting a paid leave is not enough!


Help the young father grow up and start parenting

One aspect of the revamp is in the realm of granting the leave and compensating it; the other aspect is to help the person fulfill the responsibilities of being a father apart from being a husband, a son, a brother, co-worker, boss, sub-ordinate, friend and so on.

One has to acquire new knowledge, learn new skills and most importantly, apply them handling the baby, building a new facet of relationship with the new-born, his wife and the society at large. The stress of handling new responsibilities at home, fulfilling social obligations and delivering the results at work at the same time, could be an awful lot. Unless the person is ready to deal with all of this, it could easily overwhelm one. As the baby starts growing up, the parents have to keep adapting on a regular basis. They need to stay positive, be flexible to shift priorities and make sacrifices.

In today’s world, an employer and the ecosystem at the workplace play an important role in a person’s life. Forward thinking organizations can organize a directory of support mechanisms such as mentorship programmes, counselling sessions and healthcare providers. The young father can access them as and when required.

This is a critical part of one’s life stage that can be supported well by the employer and do a world of good for its employer brand.

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