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Support, opposition, scorn for paternity leave

BY TANESHA MUNDLE
Observer staff reporter
mundlet@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

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The issue of paternity leave, long debated in Jamaica, is back in the public spotlight with plans for a consultation on the matter scheduled to be the main event marking International Men's Day (IMD) on November 19.

The event, which is being organised by the Bureau of Gender Affairs, will be held under the theme 'Reinforcing Positive Male Role Models', at The University of the West Indies Regional Headquarters, Mona, Kingston.

On the agenda will be the findings of research on the issue, conducted through the Jamaica Civil Service Association, which has been asking the Government to introduce a paternity leave policy in the country similar to the Maternity Leave Act.

Yesterday, the Jamaica Observer sought the views of Jamaicans in the capital city on whether men should be given paternity leave.

The bulk of the people interviewed were totally in support, especially if the men were responsible fathers. However, a few people, among them women, felt that paternity leave was not important and was unnecessary.

“I do agree with fathers getting paternity leave as long they will be paid while they are off on leave,” Shaun Christie, a tattoo artist, said.

Khadine Green, a civil servant, said: “Yes, fathers should get paternity leave. Having a baby is stressful for both parents and the added assistance of having a dad at home will definitely help.”

However, she added: “They should be given at least one month leave with salary. If the Government does this it will definitely show that it understands the importance of family and its role in the wider society.”

A similar view was expressed by Jodi-Ann Shaw.

“I think they should be given paternity leave as the situation might be stressful for the mother, and they might need that kind of support,” Shaw said.

However, unlike Green, she believes that the father should be given the same three months' leave allotted to women under the Maternity Leave Act.

But, at the same time, she said, “It should only apply to fathers in a committed relationship.”

Devon Sparks, a father of three, while supporting men being sent on paternity leave, said it should be granted only to responsible fathers.

“Yes, of course, but only to good fathers, 'cause ah nuh every father muss get it, only those who are responsible, and those who stand out as good fathers and look out for their kids. Yu cyaa give wutliss fada,” the chef said.

Similar sentiments were expressed by Sementa Johnson, a small business owner, and Nadine Wright, a sales representative.

“I think so, because they need to help out and spend more time around their children. I get three C-section and none of them weren't there to help and they would probably say they don't know what to do but they have to learn,” said Johnson. “But only fathers who are playing a role in their children's life must get paternity leave.”

Wright proposed that fathers should be granted paternity leave for “only for six weeks and only for those fathers who are responsible”.

Some people, while agreeing with the proposal, felt there should be no conditions attached.

“Yes, man should get paternity leave for the main fact that women are always the main ones dealing with the children and the pregnancy, so I strongly believe that this would help fathers to play a greater role in the their child's life, and from an early stage. However, I think nothing should be attached. Whether the child is with his wife or side chick, a man should be entitled, once he is the father,” said Tyrone Todd, a labourer and father of four.

Jermaine Laing, while also agreeing that there should be no conditions attached to the benefit, underscored the importance of granting fathers paternity leave to ensure that they bond with their children.

“I believe that it should be permitted and for several reasons,” said the entrepreneur and father of seven. “When there is the injection of a child in any relationship, I believe the dynamics of the relationship change, and if it is a good man who feels a sense of responsibility, he will be forced to work harder and longer hours, maybe, and so there is not that much bonding time in the initial stage of the child's life. I believe that that is important, as bad parenting or lack of parenting is a reason we have so much decadence and immorality in society.”

“So, for me, when a child is born a father needs to be there as much as the mother to ensure that child is balanced, grounded and stable, and apart from that, fathers on a whole always seem to be on the back burner when it comes to children, so fathers need to feel that sense of appreciation, and allowing them that privilege is a good place to start,” he said.

However, Rohan Simmonds, a security guard, looked puzzled when the questioned was posed. Shaking his head, he responded: “Mi nuh believe that, that sound like a fi a saaf man. Why you need time off from work?”

He added, however: “One week woulda good, but it nuh all that necessary unless the mother is too weak.”

Shaday Lyons did not support the idea. “No, I don't think fathers should get paternity leave. It is unnecessary for both parents to be home a look 'bout one likkle baby, unless a triplet,” she argued.

Added Lyons: “Nuff a dem nuh waa help or bond wid no baby, and dem a go waa tek it fi a habit.”

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