Recently, British MP Ed Miliband proposed doubling the period of paid paternity leave to four weeks for UK's dads. In India, however, the concept is still new and not very popular as yet, as Suprita Mitter finds
Sweden offers up to seven weeks off, the UK and USA give two weeks off to male employees as paternity leave, but the concept is relatively new in India. So, while the joy of holding your newborn is unparalleled and is said to be the best gift a couple can give each other, India's dads don't have it easy. The anxiety and stress of wailing babies, coupled with sleepless nights, come with playing father. Add to that office pressures, most men find it tough to cope with the early days of parenting and end up using chunks of casual and sick leave in the initial period, after the baby is born.
"Parenting is dual responsibility. This period will help fathers develop a stronger bond with the child from birth and make them more responsible, family-oriented and contented, as also reported in an OECD (Organizations for Economic Co-Operation and Development) report in 2013," says Dr Nidhi Maheswari (Asst Professor, HR-OB), Asia Pacific Institute of Management, New Delhi. "Stresses and complications that a mother experiences in the early days of raising a child can be relieved by the father's involvement, hence paternity leave improves the emotional health of the whole family," she reasons.
Need of the hour
Executive Coach Khyati Birla says, "At a social level, families are becoming nuclear. Paternity leave is a requisite and not a luxury anymore. You need to take plenty of decisions at crucial times; if the father is unavailable at that point, it disintegrates the relationship. A sleepless father, worried about the new baby and mother, cannot be productive for the company. A two-week break is ideal to get things in order but even a work-from-home option or flexi-timings might help."
Bratin and Teesta Roy
36-year-old Abhay Salitri, VP, IndusInd Bank, who became a father three months ago and was an employee of YES Bank then, was given a four-day paternity leave according to the HR policy of the bank. "The first few days are extremely stressful. Parenting is an avalanche of chaos. You feel highly vulnerable and have erratic sleep cycles. The five-day leave (weekend included) helped a lot and is important," he recalls.
Abhay and Kimaya Salitri
His wife, 33-year-old Pranali Salitri adds, "Often for a normal delivery, women are admitted to the hospital but do not go into labour immediately. In such cases, paternity leave should be flexible. In my case, it was a C-section, so it was better planned. After discharge from the hospital in about three days, where everything was taken care of, you need another two-three days to settle down at home which is the toughest time. After the first week or 10 days, the female relatives took over; the mother too is in a better position to handle herself and the baby, hence the week-long leave was perfect."
Prakash and Vansh Jadhav
Prakash Jadhav, Assistant Manager, Corporate Customer Care, Airtel, was blessed with a baby boy in November 2014. "I had just joined a company, and couldn't take additional casual leave. I got three days leave but it was too little as we were living on our own. I took two days off when my wife was admitted to the hospital and a third day off, on the day of her discharge. I also had to take leave in my previous company, Loop Mobile, because of complications in my wife's pregnancy, but my boss was accommodating. A two week-leave period is ideal," he maintains.
Bratin Roy, Manager, Raymond Limited, was given a four-day paternity leave that he used while his wife was in the hospital for her delivery, and to handle the paper work and formalities at the hospital.
A source from the Indian Army says, "Even though it might not be there in black and white, whenever the boys have such a requirement, we send them on leave. The soldiers, NCOs (Non-Commissioned Officers) and JCOs (Junior Commissioned Officers) are authorised 60 days of annual leave and 30 days of casual leave, and as a policy, we endeavour to give them their total entitlement."
Deepak Gianani, Process Manager HR, E Clerx (an IT/ BPO company), mentions that their company gives their employees a 10-day paternity leave that can be split into two halves. "The five-day leave can be taken anytime between 12 weeks prior to or 12 weeks after the birth of the child.Most employees club this with the weekend and get 14 days off", he informs.
Hospitality veterans Taj Group of Hotels grant a one-week paternity leave to its employees. "Parenting is a shared responsibility. We feel extending paternity leave is an important step towards understanding and appreciating the needs of a new parent," elaborates Dr PV Ramana Murthy, Senior Vice President, Global Head — Human Resources, Taj Group of Hotels.
Godrej offers 10 working days of paternity leave (two weeks with weekend), a policy that was revised in 2015.
Avedh Mohan Mangle, Assistant Manager, HR, Accenture, says that they give three days off, but it has to be consecutive. "I have also worked with Capgemini in the past, and they offer three days which is sufficient," he believes.
While scouring for inputs, we learnt that advertising company Madison, Tata Consultancy Services and courier company DTDC were among many that do not have a paternity leave policy.
“For Central and State Government employees, a provision was made in 1999 for paternity leave, and Paternity Leave is available for Central University employees, but there is no law which gives instruction to private employers to make it mandatory. For State and Private universities, as well as in schools, this is not very common. As this is optional for private companies, most do not have this provision,” explains, Dr Nidhi Maheswari. “However, there is a genuine concern where fathers need to be given an equal legitimate right like maternity leave,” she asserts.