Sun | Oct 20, 2019

Richard Lambie gets paternity leave

Published:Saturday | December 29, 2018 | 12:14 AMPaul H. Willams/Gleaner Writer
Bruno Pouezat

In addressing the International Men's Day forum held inside The University of the West Indies Regional Headquarters, located along Hermitage Road in St Andrew on Monday, November 19, Bruno Pouezat, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) resident representative in Jamaica, said, among other things, "UNDP staff, men and women, can testify that paternity leave improves family life and boots male responsibility."

The UNDP was one of the partners in the hosting of the event with the Bureau of Gender Affairs in the Ministry of Culture Gender Entertainment and sport. And present at the forum was Richard Lambie, a UNDP Jamaica employee, who got his paternity leave in April this year. Family and Religion visited him recently at his office to talk about his experience with paternity leave.

Lambie, a Canada-born Jamaican, and a policy support associate at UNDP Jamaica, admitted that it was not the first time he took time off from work to be with his family after his wife gave birth, as he was already the father of twins. But the second time around the time-off came in the form of a four-week paid paternity leave, which he obtained after going through an online application process.

The first time when he took time off he was a project manager at another job. He still had to be attending to work-related matters, monitoring things, but with the official paternity leave from the UNDP he got all the time to focus on his family, taking care of the baby and helping his wife with the recovery process. He was under no obligation to do anything work-related.

Lambie has been at UNDP for 18 months, but he got leave before a year had passed, unlike the Jamaica Maternity Leave Act that says mothers have to be working with the same employer for at least one year before they can get maternity leave.

Another factor, which he did not have to deal with was the proof of paternity, which is one of the discussion topics surrounding the idea of a paternity leave act for Jamaican fathers. Up to the time of the interview with Family and Religion, Lambie jokingly said he was yet to take the baby in flesh to work for all to see. It has been a busy time.

Fatherhood is indeed a busy time, and to men who might have doubts about paternity leave Lambie said, "If you are serious about taking care of your baby, if you are committed to your family, paternity leave is something you should considered … If you are someone who is supportive of your spouse and you want to be there for your child, and you have a concept of family, it is something that can help you, especially for new fathers, young fathers to focus on your family."

Paternity leave, Lambie said, is a very serious thing, not a paid vacation. It is a time to adjust, to put things in place, and there are benefits. One of such is that paternity leave for him was cost-effective. He was actually being paid not to be at work, and with  his presence with his family there was no great need to pay anyone to be around all the time. "In essence, we saved money," he said. "I was there."

And for those who believe men should still be at work when women give birth, Lambie said, "We are not in the 1940s, things have changed. For me it's about responsibility, and it's about family … People have options now and I think they should be considered."