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Paternity Benefit Laws in India- A Necessity

The term Work-life balance originated in the U.K. during the time of Industrial Revolution. It means balance between the work life and the family life. In the Women's Liberation Movement, women demanded that their working hours should be reduced as they had to do household work and child rearing. Because society did not put any responsibility on men for housekeeping and women alone bared the pressure of family rearing.

With the changing times, men and women are no longer confined to their traditional roles of earing and housekeeping respectively. In today's society we strive for gender equality yet women continue to struggle alone with the work-life balance. Therefore, paternity leave is a step towards gender equal society. This paper reviews the existing laws related to paternity laws in India and around the globe. It discusses the significance of paternity leave with the help of studies conducted in this field. Further, the paper gives recommendations for the formulation of new policies in the absence of any effective law.

Introduction
Parent refers to a mother or a father. Merriam Webster defines parent as one that begets or brings forth offspring. [1] A child is an offspring of both mother and father. When a child is born, he needs special care and nurturing and it is natural for parents to take time off from work for child rearing. This off time is known as parental leave. Parental leave is a combination of maternity and paternity leave, it is an absence from work by mother and father respectively. It is unfortunate that parental leave has become synonyms to maternity leave.

Traditionally, the society has divided labour based on gender, where household chores and child rearing is considered as women's job whereas men are breadwinners. Society has evolved over the years, women have started working and equally contribute to family income. Similarly, 21st century men are involved in household work and child rearing more than ever. Sadly, this change has not been reflected in governmental policies and laws in India.

Men are no more the sole earners and are actively involved in family responsibilities still women remain the primary caregivers. This is a reality even in the Scandinavian countries, who were the first ones to grant paternity leave and promote gender equality at home as well as at workplace.[2]

Paternity leave becomes all the more important in today's society where both the parents are working and live in nuclear families as opposed to joint families. It is imperative for both the parents to contribute equally in child rearing. We need laws which encourage fathers to take leave so that mothers can return to work in a short time. Paternity leave is a necessity, as it allows fathers to fulfil their family responsibilities and mothers can get an equal opportunity to further their careers.

Significance of paternity leave

In India there is no independent legislation to govern the laws of paternity leave. The only provision that is available can be found in the leave rules for state and central government employees, which provide 15 days of leave, whereas mothers are provided 182 days off.

A minor difference in number of days for paternity leave and maternity leave can be justified because women need time to recover after delivery and for breastfeeding but the huge disparity that exists, where paternity leave is only 8.2 percent of the maternity leave is unjustifiable. This disparity is the result of the ethos and the stereotype that exist in our society that women are solely responsible for child-rearing, and Indian Laws approve such societal mind-set through its regressive policy on paternity leave.

Women have to eventually bear the brunt. They are discriminated in the workplace, employees are often reluctant to hire women with similar capabilities as men because they feel that women will lose significant number of days in the process of child rearing.

Also women are considered responsible for looking after household chores because of which they may be considered less productive. At the same time in the absence of full responsibility for child rearing they can use the time to further their careers. This is the same reason for pay disparity at workplace, where females are paid less than their male counterparts for similar nature of work. Women even leave their jobs, temporarily or sometimes permanently for child rearing and to look after their family lives. This results in lack of diversity in organisations.

According to the Zomato blog on paternity leave, their organisation has some of the finest female leaders but still there are very few females working at senior level. This is the reality of entire world where senior positions are occupied by overwhelming majority of males. Even if an organisation takes an initiative to hire more females for such positions, it becomes quite difficult because of supply bias.[3]

Studies demonstrate that when organisations formulate policies which are family friendly and support more time off for fathers, it benefits a child in his social, emotional and intellectual growth. Further it helps in reducing gender stereotyping. Other than that if organisations support equitable paid leave for both the parents, it protects mothers from discrimination in hiring, promotion and salary. Such discrimination is known as the motherhood penalty that mothers have to pay in the absence of equitable paternity leave.[4]

A study done in Canada concluded that the increase in number of paternity leave taken by fathers is directly proportional to increase in number of work hours by mothers. A different study done in Sweden found that women's labour force participation is positively influenced by increased number of paternity leave taken by fathers.[5]

If a law relating to equitable paid paternity leave is passed, it will promote gender equality. This policy will help in resolving the issue of wage disparity because men will receive equal paid leave as women, and when men will equally share the responsibility of child rearing, it will ensure quick return of females to work.

Paternity leave will not only give an egalitarian point of view to the society but is equally important for the well-being of fathers and children. Child rearing is not just a responsibility but a right of every father to bond with his child in the initial months of his life.

A research shows that fathers who take at least 2 or more weeks leave have higher probability to participate in childcare activities as compared to those who do not avail such leaves. Additionally, it is found that active involvement of father results in better performance of a child than children with less involved fathers.[6]

The positive impact of such early father-child bonding is not restricted to early years. According to a paper published in 2019, it was found that children who spent initial months bonding with their fathers, feel closer to them even 9 years later. Also another research conducted on married parents found that, if fathers take paternity leave, it reduces the risk of divorce.[7] Sharing responsibility in child rearing early-on sets a pattern which ensures that fathers take responsibility of childcare activities even after the leave gets over.[8]

A research suggests that family friendly policies ensure higher employee retention and job satisfaction, both the aspects annul the amount spent in paternity benefits. In a research it was also found that fathers are willing to take leave to support their child but they believe that they can take leaves only when their colleagues and employer support their choices. As they have a genuine fear of being left behind in their careers if it is not the norm at the workplace. [9]

The need for paternity leave couldn't be emphasised more for single fathers and same-sex couples. In Navtej Singh Johar v. UOI, Supreme Court decriminalised homosexual relationships.[10] But presently there is no law on adoption by homosexual couples in India.

Maternity and Paternity Laws in India

  1. Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017:

    This act is an amendment to Maternity Benefits Act 1961. The act makes paid leave available to the mothers of new born. Earlier a pregnant woman was permitted 12 weeks leave out of which up to 6 weeks can be availed before delivery. The amended act has extended the time period of 12 weeks to 26 weeks and 6 weeks to 8 weeks. The benefit is reduced for a woman who has two or more than two surviving children. In this case she can take 12 weeks leave out of which up to 6 weeks can be availed before delivery. Further, a new provision has been inserted which allows adoptive mothers to take 12 weeks leave, if the adopted child is below the age of three months. Similarly, a ‘commissioning mother' is allowed to take 12 weeks leave. A commissioning mother is a woman who gives birth through surrogacy.
     
  2. Central Civil Services (Leave) Rules, 1972:

    These rules are applicable on Government servants appointed to the civil services and posts in connection with the affairs to the Union, subject to the exceptions mentioned under Rule 2. Rule 43-A provides paternity leave for a period of 15 days to a male employee with less than two surviving children. This leave can be availed during the confinement of his wife for child birth or up to six months from the date of delivery of the child. If it is not claimed within the specified time, it will be lapsed. Similar rules can be found in the leave rules of state governments.
     
  3. Paternity Benefit Bill, 2017

    A private member bill was proposed by the congress MP Rajeev Satav. This bill was an initiative to grant paternity leave to fathers working in all sectors including private and unorganised sectors. The bill made 15 days fully paid leave available to fathers out of which up to 7 days can be availed preceding the expected date of pregnancy. The leave can be taken within 3 months from the date of delivery of the child. The bill proposed to extend similar benefits to adoptive parents.


During presentation of the bill in Lok Sabha, a report of International Labour Organisation was cited, this report quoted researcher Erin Rehel on role of the father, "By drawing fathers into the daily realities of childcare, free of workplace constraints, extended time off provides the space necessary for fathers to develop the parenting skills and sense of responsibility that then allows them to be active co-parents rather than helpers to their female partners".[11]

This bill is much needed for making paternity leave available to fathers but the bill never saw light of the day and couldn't become the act.

Delhi High Court has given a progressive judgment in this regard. In 2009, in Chander Mohan Jain v. N.K Bagrodia Public School, a private school teacher was given a relief on rejection of his application for paternity leave and deduction in his salary. This judgment was given in the absence of legislation governing paternity leave in private sector.

Private Sector approach towards Paternity Leave

Although there is no law for governing paternity leave in private sector but some multi-national companies have taken an initiate to give some time off to the fathers of new born.
  1. Zomato

    It is an Indian based food-delivery company. On June 3, 2019, Zomato announced its paternity leave policy through its blog. It offers 26 weeks paid parental leave for both men and women. This policy applies on surrogate parents, adoptive parents and same-sex couples.[12]

    This is a revolutionary policy because private companies are reluctant to grant such a long period of paid paternity leave. Other than Zomato, IKEA and Novartis provide 26 weeks paternity leave but these companies are based in Sweden and Switzerland respectively. It is laudable for a company based in India to take such a step. Also, companies which provide paternity leave in India are based in some developed country with global presence.
  2. IKEA

    It is a Swedish based company of furniture. It provides 6 months paternity as well as maternity leave in Indian offices. The leave can be availed by a male employee only when his wife re-joins the work. This policy coves surrogates, single parents and adoptions. [13]
     
  3. Amazon

    It is an American based company which works in various areas including e-commerce, cloud computing etc. In 2015, it took an initiative to allow 6 weeks paternity leave. This policy has two exclusive features. Firstly, it has a ‘Leave Share' plan, which provides an opportunity to share a parental leave with other spouse who is not an employee at amazon and whose employer does not grant paid parental leave. Secondly, its ‘Ramp Back' plan which gives an opportunity to work on a flexible schedule for a period of 8 weeks and shortened work hours.[14]
     
  4. Novartis

    It is a Swiss based pharmaceutical company. In 2019, it started 26 weeks paid leave to both the parents of a new born child through birth, adoption or surrogacy.[15] Similar parental leave policies are provided by many private organisations such as Netflix, Google, Facebook, Reddit, Etsy etc.

Paternity Laws in other countries

Nordic countries have been a pioneer of paternity leave. Nordic countries comprise of Finland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland.
  1. Sweden
    Sweden was the first country to allow paid parental leave in the year 1974, which can be shared by both the parents. It grants highest number of parental leave among Nordic countries i.e. 480 days, out of which 90 days are solely reserved for each parent. It means that these 90 days cannot be transferred from one parent to another, and if not availed it will lapse. Remaining days can be shared between the parents as per their convenience.[16]
     
  2. Finland
    In 2020, Finland became the first country to grant equal number of maternity and paternity leave. Each parent will get 164 days leave, out of which parents are permitted to transfer 69 days of quota. [17]
     
  3. Norway
    In 1993, Norway introduced ‘daddy quota', which is exclusively reserved for fathers and leaves from this quota cannot be transferred to mothers. Currently, daddy quota is 15 weeks. It provides 49 weeks of fully paid parental leave or 59 weeks of parental leave with 20% reduced salary.[18]
     
  4. Denmark
    It makes available 52 weeks of parental leave for both the parents. It had daddy quota, like Norway, but it was abolished in 2002.[19]
     
  5. Iceland
    Iceland's parental leave plan is divided into three parts. It allows 3 months of paternity as well as maternity leave. Additionally, 3 months leave can be shared by the parents.[20]
     
  6. Portugal
    Portugal has gender-neutral leave policy, it allows 120 days leave with 100% salary and an optional 30 days leave with 80% salary.[21]
     
  7. UNICEF
    UN agencies provide 4 weeks paternity leave but UNICEF has extended it to 16 weeks.[22] In 2020, UNICEF UK has made a gender neutral parental leave policy. It allows 52 weeks leave irrespective of gender or sexual orientation.[23]

Suggestions
Firstly, there is a need to pass an independent Union Legislation which can regulate paternity leave in all sectors. The legislation should be made applicable even cases of surrogacy as well as adoption. The allotment of number of days for paternity leave should be at least 75% of the number of days for maternity leave. Other than physical recovery after delivery and breastfeeding, men and women deserve equal number of days off for the purpose of child rearing.

Secondly, the current leave rules for government employees allow 15 days of paid leave only in case of less than two surviving children and maternity leave is also reduced from 26 weeks to 12 weeks in case of a women having two or more than two surviving children. The reduced benefit is a result of population control policy of the Indian government. In order to ensure gender equality at workplace and at home, the benefit of paternity leave should not be reduced to zero even in case of two or more than two surviving children but at least 75% of the reduced maternity leave should be given as paternity leave. The idea behind such policy is that paternity leave should be seen at par with maternity leave.

Thirdly, paternity leave should be made mandatory for fathers. In India, the culture of toxic masculinity still exists and many men might not be comfortable in taking a fully paid paternity leave. It is important that our laws should be such, which push men to equally contribute towards family life and make it a norm. Especially in private sector where the employer may not fire an employee for availing paternity leave, still may be reluctant to give him a salary raise or a much deserved promotion. Also, men may not avail paternity leave because of such fears.

Lastly, a father who is on paternity leave should not be allowed to engage in any kind of paid work on temporary basis and no employer should knowingly engage any male who is on paternity leave.

Conclusion
It is required to formulate policies which remove the stigma from the society that only men are the breadwinners and are incapable to look after their child. Gender stereotyping not only affect females but it negatively impact males as well. In the absence of paternity leave they are deprived from bonding in early years with their child. Parental leave laws should not discriminate men against women. Equitable parental leave helps in breaking traditional roles of male and female.

It is unfortunate that maternity benefit laws have failed to protect women working in unorganised sector. In fact, there is no law as such that can cover contractual women employees for maternity benefit. Effective implementation of paternity leave to unorganised sector looks like a pipe dream.

End-Notes:
  1. In: Merriam-webster. 2020. Parent. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 June 2020].
  2. Huerta, M., et al. (2013), "Fathers' Leave, Fathers' Involvement and Child Development: Are They Related? Evidence from Four OECD Countries", OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers, No. 140, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/5k4dlw9w6czq-en.
  3. Goyal, D., 2019. Introducing the new parental leave policy at Zomato. [Blog] Zomato munchies- the blog, Available at: [Accessed 18 June 2020].
  4. UNICEF, 2019. Joint Statement: 1 UN For Family Leave And Childcare. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 June 2020].
  5. 2016. Why Parental Leave For Fathers Is So Important For Working Families. [online] Washington, D.C: U.S. Department of Labor, p.3. Available at: [Accessed 18 June 2020].
  6. Huerta, M, supra
  7. Popper, N., 2020. Paternity Leave Has Long-Lasting Benefits. So Why Don't More American Men Take It?. The New York Times, [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 June 2020].
  8. Working Families, supra, 2.
  9. Koslowski, A., 2018. When Workplace Cultures Support Paternity Leave, All Employees Benefit. Harvard Business Review, [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 June 2020].
  10. AIR 2018 SC 4321
  11. Addati, L., Cassirer, N. and Gilchrist, K., 2014. Maternity And Paternity At Work. Geneva, Switzerland: International Labour Office.
  12. Goyal, supra
  13. Dasgupta, B. and Khosla, V., 2017. Companies go liberal in giving time off to new dads. The Economic Times, [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 June 2020].
  14. India Today, 2019. 8 companies with great parental leave policies. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 June 2020].
  15. Id.
  16. 2020. Shared And Paid Parental Leave. [ebook] Denmark: Nordic Council of Ministers. Available at: [Accessed 18 June 2020].
  17. BBC, 2020. Finland to give dads same parental leave as mums. [online] Available at:[Accessed 18 June 2020].
  18. Shared and Paid Parental Leave, supra
  19. Id
  20. Id.
  21. Finland, supra
  22. UNICEF, 2020. 2 In 3 Infants Live In Countries Where Dads Are Not Entitled To A Single Day Of Paid Paternity Leave – UNICEF. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 June 2020]
  23. Unicef United Kingdom, 2020. UNICEF UK EQUALISES PARENTAL LEAVE FOR ALL. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 June 2020]

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