The author, Vidhi Agarwal, is a student at the Institute of Law, Nirma University, currently in 6th Semester.
In the age of urbanization, people from towns and villages migrated to urban cities in search of better economic growth and thereby initiated their own nuclear families. This has also resulted from inter-state migration for the same reasons of more profitable opportunities. The concept of nuclear families becomes something detrimental when a working woman gets pregnant and has little to no help in parenting the child.
Though the woman enjoys the benefits of the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017, delivering and parenting makes the woman physically as well as emotionally vulnerable. On the other hand, the father of the child, though he wants to be with the child and the mother, cannot do so unless he is ready to bear the unpaid leaves.
Need and Benefits of Paternity Leave
It has already been established that like a mother, a father is equally important for the development of a child and parenting is like a motorcycle where the wheels are the parents. In case of non-functioning of any of the wheels, the motorcycle cannot run.
In this era where women are working or living in nuclear families, it becomes difficult for them to go through the last few days of pregnancy and initial days of the new born. At times, the woman is not discharged from the hospital and the husband cannot be there because of his work. If he decides to take unpaid leaves, that causes extra financial pressure on a lot of middle to lower class families.
Further, the emotional factor of the father of the new born cannot be eliminated or ignored. A father also seeks to nurture the child and care for his wife. Though the birth brings happiness but it also brings vulnerability of the parties involved which is tended by the participation of both the parents during the initial days of the new born.
Consequently, after research and analysis, the International Labor Organization has reported that paternity leave may have the following benefits:
- Contributes in successfully balancing work and family obligations for the better care of infants and young children.
- Successful child development is correlated with fathers’ leaving, taking up family obligations, and early engagement with their children.
- A better level of equality for men and women at work and at home will arise from the acceptance of men’s right to fatherhood as well as their obligation to share unpaid care and domestic duties.
Current Provision for Paternity Leave in India
In India, there is no uniform law enacted or legislation done for paternity leave. The sole legislation finds its place in the Central Civil Services (Leave) Rules, 1972 under Rule 43-A which states that paternity leave may be granted for a period of 15 days provided the male employee has less than 2 children. It can only be availed by government employees and is time barred which means it can be availed either 15 days prior to the birth of the child or within six months from the date of delivery beyond which the same would be considered to be lapsed.
However, for employees in the private sector, there is no legislation granting them paid paternity leaves. This, however, does not bar the private companies to not make rules regarding the same. Consequently, private giants like TATA, WIPRO, ZOMATO, CISCO and many others provide for paternity leaves.
Nonetheless, for uniform benefits, there arises a need for central legislation. In furtherance of the same, Shri Rajeev Satav, a member of the parliament, introduced a private member bill in the Lok Sabha, entitled Paternity Benefit Bill 2017 but it was not implemented.
Analysis of the Paternity Benefit Bill, 2017
The Paternity Benefit Bill, 2017 aims to apply to employees (whether private or government) all over India including men involved in self-employment or working in an unorganized sector. Under Section 4 of the Bill, it is intended to grant the right to payment of paternity benefits where under, a male employee (who has not more than 2 children) would be granted paternity leave for 15 days (extendable up to 30 days in certain circumstances) . Further he could avail the same up to 3 months from the date of delivery. Additionally, not more than 7 days out of the 15 days could be availed before the expected day of delivery.
Further, the Bill outlines the requirements for an employee to notify their employer of their intention to take paternity leave. This clause is crucial because it ensures that businesses receive enough time to make plans for the employee’s absence and find a temporary replacement.
Furthermore, the Bill proposes that the leave be paid at a rate equivalent to the daily wage of the employee. This provision is critical in ensuring that fathers from all sections of society can take paternity leave without worrying about financial constraints. The payment of leave would be made by the employer or the government, depending on the type of employment. Moreover, the employee taking paternity leave was to be entitled to job security as per the Bill, meaning that they should not be terminated from their employment during or after the leave period.
Reason for Non-implementation of Paternity Benefit Bill, 2017
Even though the Bill seemed to be a welfare legislation, the same could not be implemented. There has not been any specific reasons or statements given by the government for its non-implementation. However, the common reasons which could be deduced that first, there might have been political opposition since Mr. Rajeev belonged to the opposition. Secondly, depending on who pays the leave, the government or the employers would need to invest a sizable sum of money in the Paternity Benefit Bill’s implementation. It’s possible that neither the government nor the employers want to shoulder this cost. Thirdly, there might be a legislative burden on the Parliament, which could have led to dropping of the Bill. Another possible reason could be that the concept of “father parenting” may not be prevalent in the Indian minds, however, there could be other possible reasons. The issue of paternity leave is a complex one that requires a nuanced understanding of the economic, social and cultural contexts of the country.
In conclusion, if passed into law, the Paternity Benefit Bill, 2017, would have been a huge step towards encouraging fathers’ abilities to manage their careers and personal lives and advance gender equality in India. Working fathers would have the chance to spend meaningful time with their infants while not worrying about their financial situation or job stability.
 International Labor Organization (2014) Maternity and paternity at work. International Labor Office. Available at: http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—dcomm/—publ/documents/publication/wcms_242615.pdf.
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