Amend legislation to include paternity leave
THE EDITOR, Madam:
Father absenteeism has for some time been recognised as a serious issue in Jamaica, yet little has been done from a legislative and policy perspective to address it. While I acknowledge that legislation and policy alone may not solve the problem, it is important to create an environment where fathers are encouraged to play an active role in their children’s lives. Under the Maternity Leave Act, 1979, women get 12 weeks of maternity leave, of which 8 weeks are paid.
This is the only piece of legislation to date that addresses any kind of parental leave in Jamaica. While this legislation gives time off to women to care for their newborn, it disproportionately places the burden of caring for a newborn on the mother, effectively ignoring the role of fathers.
The reality is comparable to that of other English-speaking Caribbean countries like Barbados, where women are given no less than 12 weeks’ leave and Trinidad and Tobago, where they get up to a maximum of 14 weeks. There is currently no country in the English-speaking Caribbean which has a paternity leave law; however, the drafting of legislation that would make this reality has been proposed in both Barbados and Jamaica.
To promote fathers’ involvement in their children’s lives as well gender equality, legislated parental leave is necessary. While broad parental leave legislation may not be possible in the immediate future, I suggest the amendment of current laws to include paternal leave. This will send a clear message to society about the equally important role mothers and fathers play in the rearing of children.
Policy and Advocacy Manager
Equality For All Foundation