Paternity leave is an employee benefit that a father enjoys at his workplace shortly after the birth of his child. The number of statutory paternity benefit provisions witnessed a massive growth between 1994- 2015 around the world, according to ILO. The most supportive states in this regard have been Japan, South Korea and Portugal, according to a UNICEF report. About more than 80 countries around the world now have parental leave in their employment policies, including both maternal and paternal leave. Research shows that, including this benefit has extended its positive impact beyond personal, by increasing workers’ efficiency.

Bangladesh ensures its stance in terms of maternity benefit by the national laws as well as conventions. Our leading legislation in Labour Law, Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006 Section 46, lays down the provision ensuring 16 weeks maternity leave. Female government servants are entitled to receive six months leave according to Bangladesh Service Rules section 197(1) (amended on 9 January 2011). Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 ensures leave of not more than 14 weeks. But there is no mention of paternity leave in our legislation till now.

A 15-day paternity leave proposal was presented by the then Deputy Commissioner of Tangail Md. Mahbub Hosen at a DC Conference. But the proposal has not been recognised in our employment provisions. But NGOs such as BRAC has been providing 1 month’s paid paternity leave which is definitely wonderful.

Bangladesh is aiming to comply with SDGs since the very beginning through its actions. Goal 5 is specifically about ensuring equality. But absence of this provision is actually disappointing, when it is being said that we are one of the promising countries around the world to attain SDGs according to UNDP.

By ensuring the existing maternity leave and enacting paternity benefits, the companies will be able to ensure a more productive outcome from their employees

Maternity benefits are still not being properly ensured by the organisations. But that should not be a defence for the delay in enactment of the deserved benefits of the remaining half of the population.

It is true that a woman is entitled to more benefits than a father due to breastfeeding and also for her own post-pregnancy medical condition. But modern families are now mostly nuclear ones, thus at such crucial time, the rights of a father should also be ensured in order to give the child proper care, rather than imposing gender roles through legislation.

Also postpartum depression is a real fact which is not addressed very often. Globally, the prevalence of PPD among mothers ranges from 0.05% to 60.8%, while the less developed countries having the higher rates. Granting paternity leave will allow the husband spend more time with the new-born’s mother. By ensuring the existing maternity leave and enacting paternity benefits, the companies will be able to ensure a more productive outcome from their employees. This is only going to bring good results for the state as a whole. Thus speedy inclusion of these benefits is imperative.

* Munirah Jahan is a student of the Department of Law, Bangladesh University of Professionals. She has interest in human rights laws and its violations.

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