With the hullabaloo around granting parental leave has finally taken a step further. Since ages, it has been believed that women are the primary caretakers of the born child and men earn bread for the family. This doesn’t sound too fair in the 20th century! Does it? When the community has come such a long way with challenging gender stereotypes and issues of gender, debates about only women having the sole responsibility of taking care of the child is bound to change. Also, this brings in a larger discourse of what is really inclusive of the gender roles and how far does it accommodate the third gender. And who even decides that women need to sit at home and give up their carriers because juggling between the personal and professional life is almost impossible. In respect to this, this blog shall tackle with what has been done in the domain of parental leave and what initiatives are underway to bring about the change.
Recently, a major step was taken towards detaching parental leave from gender by the Indian bank-“Deutsche Bank”. This new leave policy is being adopted across Asia Pacific and this initiative offers the same benefits of childcare leave to both men and women if men wish to be the primary caregivers. This is applicable in cases involving surrogacy and adoption as well. Changing trends have time and again shown us that more and more women seem to engage in jobs, and are excelling at them. Also, this project is imperative to gender equality and that a male can sit at home, take care of the child and cook for the working women without it being a huge deal. If this initiative comes into full-swing implementation, a lot of gender problems would be solved automatically.
According to a 2014 International Labor Organization report, 70 countries offer their employees paid paternity leave to enable men to participate in bringing up their children. Starting from The U.S, Washington D.C. joins a number of states, including San Francisco and New York, to pass legislation aimed at granting full and part-time workers eight weeks of leave, up to 90% of full weekly wages for birth, adoption or fostering. The U.S. is sadly the only developed country that fails to guarantee paid parental leave. The recent meeting of Donald Trump and top executives of companies like Google and Facebook talked about the need for parental leaves and including more women in their companies, which is a huge step. Furthermore, the United Kingdom is working towards it with the help of the project “Shared Parental Leave” that converts the remaining weeks of maternity leave, once the two weeks or four-week compulsory maternity leave period has been taken, to leave which can be shared between the mother and father, spouse or partner. It has been heavily criticized due to the qualifying conditions that it demands. In Australia, employees are allowed 12 months of unpaid parental leave and can also request an additional 12 months of leave.
These countries give us an insight about how important it is to provide paternal leave and how this scheme needs to be adopted worldwide and especially in India which is struggling with gender bias. In India, The maternity Benefit Bill, 2016, which increases maternity leave from present 12 weeks to 26 weeks that was passed recently, fails to look at the paternal leave and it does not provide benefit to adopting mothers. However, it qualifies among the 16 countries that have longest paid leave for new mothers. Although, central government has a mandated paternity leave policy that provides leave for a central government employee for a period of 15 days so that he can take care of his wife and the newborn, the policy is still very rigid and not implemented properly. Not only countries but companies autonomously have taken a step further. Among many companies, Flipkart said that it aspires to be a change catalyst in society which has its age-old conditioning of gender biases. In recent months, tech companies like Twitter, Facebook and Spotify have rolled out liberal parental leave policies. Moreover, MNC’s and organizations like IKEA, American Express, Netflix, and EY have also made similar efforts.
These efforts make me believe that the practice has been successful in several places, and we are ready to take the jump. The needs of parental leave will not only help create a paradigm shift among the older generations but will also help society challenge the status quo. Also, this initiative will help companies recruit more women and they will not be a step backward when they join back. Paternity leave is equally important than maternity leave keeping in mind the support a women needs during the birth of a newborn. This is definitely the right time to fix the problems of parental leave as the society is at its peak in struggling with gender equality.
Center for Social Research, which has been working above and beyond for women empowerment with the help of certain campaigns and programmers and the gender training institute has been successful in creating a grassroots understanding of gender issues by targeting all age groups and both rural and urban sector.
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