THE QUESTION OF PATERNITY LEAVE: Bahamian mothers advocate for more time off for fathers

(Photo_Pixabay_Anna Shvets)

(Photo_Pixabay_Anna Shvets)


Tribune Features Writer


The birth of a child can be the most exciting yet stressful and tiring time of a woman’s life.

And while the father of the child does not experience the physical recovery associated with childbirth, most people agree that it is equally important that he is given the necessary time off work to not only help his partner in her recovery, perhaps take care of their other kids, but to also bond with his new offspring.

Many countries around the world have recognised the importance of paternity leave if you want to have a society that promotes and assists healthy family units.

In the European country of Lithuania, fathers can get 30 days of paternity leave paid at a rate of 77.58 percent of regular earnings. Sweden offers both parents access to 480 days of shared leave with partial pay. Meanwhile, Japan offers one full year of paid parental leave exclusively for fathers.

The Jamaican government recently announced changes their Family Leave Act. The proposed amendment for public service workers will allow paternity leave for fathers of newborns and family leave for adoptive parents bringing a new child into the home. It is slated to come into effect on January 1, 2023.

But here in the Bahamas, it is not always possible for fathers to take any significant time off from work during this momentous occasion in their lives.

However, Tribune readers agree that men deserve better rights and benefits when it comes to the birth of their children.

Tara said: “When I had my third child it was by C-section and we had two older children, aged four and six, at home in addition to our new baby. I could barely get out of bed for the first few weeks, but even when I was feeling a bit better, there was so much we needed to do: cleaning the house and school drop-off plus homework. I had three months maternity leave, but my husband only got two weeks and it was so rough for us.

“I wish he had been off for the entire time or that his job was a bit more flexible, because I really needed him for much longer.”

Vanessa added that her husband had no available vacation time and was only able to take a few days off.

“His boss allowed him to take the day that I went into labour off and the day I came out the hospital, that was it, because he had no more vacation time. I mean, they told him, that he could take time off without pay, but that was not an option. I mean, really, who can afford to get a salary cut right when you have baby?”

Jeanette added that in her case, even though her partner’s company had very progressive family leave policies, he did not qualify because they were not married.

“Apparently, they were flexible if your spouse had to have assistance for surgery, which technically my C- section was, but I am not his spouse so that didn’t apply to us. That really seems so unfair to me,” she said.

Raven echoed these sentiments.

“A mother may be the one who brings the child, but the father needs just as much time to bond with the child as well. My husband and I had to be creative with our time, because we wanted to ensure that one parent was home with the child for as long as possible.

“So, I took my four months maternity leave and then my husband took all his vacation and some unpaid leave so that instead of having to send her to nursery at three months, we were able to send her at almost eight months. My husband loved having that time to be with her and I believe that is why our daughter is such a daddy’s girl today.”


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