Introducing paternity leave in Bangladesh

Introducing paternity leave in Bangladesh

The notion that only mothers care for children is outdated. Fathers' share of parenting is increasing these days. Sometimes, fathers have to take care of not only mother and newborn but also older children in the family. Getting support from other family members in caring newborn is getting limited day by day, especially when a family lives in a busy city like Dhaka. So, to take care of a newborn and also mother, a working father needs paternity leave for a period of at least one month with full pay and allowances.

The concept of paternity leave could be new to us but it is quite common in many countries in the world. It is in place even in our neighbouring India and Pakistan. In India, government employees are entitled to get 15 days of paternity leave and it is normally 10-30 days in Pakistan. In 1974, Sweden became the first country to offer fathers the legal right to paid leave from work so that they could be with their families after childbirth. According to an International Labour Organization (ILO) report, around 70 countries offer paid leave for fathers in the form of paternity leave.

The arrival of a child comes with many changes for families. To give parents time to cope with these changes, there is maternity leave in Bangladesh. Section 46 of the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006, ensures a female worker 16 weeks of maternity leave. Rule 197 (1) of the Bangladesh Service Rules gives female government servants six months' leave and Article 4 (1) of the Maternity Protection Convention, 2000, provides female workers with not less than 14 weeks maternity leave. But there is no mention of paternity leave in our laws till now. But some NGOs (non-government organisations) such as BRAC have been providing one month paid paternity leave to their male employees. And this is definitely praiseworthy.

Caesarean deliveries have now become a common affair in Bangladesh. And many children are now born through such deliveries. It takes six to eight weeks or more for mothers to be ready to return to work after a c-section. When a mother is recovering from a major surgery, the father has to take care of his wife, newborn and other members of a family. But their family duties clash with official responsibilities. Most organisations allow these new fathers casual leave for a week or so, which is hardly adequate. And some private organisations are structured in a way that their employees have to work even when they are in vacation. This gives new fathers a poor job satisfaction, which can hamper both their work quality and productivity. Therefore, workplaces should support their male employees when they become new fathers. And the best way of helping them is to allow them paid paternity leave, at least, in the case of first two offsprings.

Family responsibilities are now shared equally between spouses. In modern households, neither is the woman only entitled to homemaking, nor is the man only entitled to providing financial support. Fathers play an important role for both his wife and children. The fathers who are actively involved in raising their children can make a positive and lasting difference in their lives. For growing up, a child needs both mother and father. So, fathers should be exempted from work for some period after they embrace fatherhood. Like other countries, Bangladesh should also welcome the paternity leave law for the wellbeing of child and mother.

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