A petition by the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) calling for at least seven days’ paternity leave in the private sector has garnered 39,340 signatures.
“Many Malaysians want paternity leave and the government must heed this call,” said WAO executive director Sumitra Visvanathan when presenting the petition to Human Resources Minister M Kula Segaran and Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh in Parliament today.
“The three days of paternity leave proposed by the government is a positive step, but it’s simply not enough. Fathers in the private sector deserve at least seven days of paternity leave, similar to the existing paternity leave in the public sector,” Sumitra added.
Television personality and child advocate Daphne Iking, who was present at the petition handover, highlighted the importance of paternity leave in encouraging shared parenting.
“I am fighting for at least seven days of paternity leave to allow more fathers to play an active role during childbirth and to be there with the mother so they both can adjust and share the responsibility of taking care of the newborn.”
“The crucial first week also allows fathers to be more hands-on with housework and take care of the baby and other kids, so mum can get her optimum rest and heal after labour.”
Those who signed the petition also shared the challenges they had faced due to the lack of paternity leave.
“I just became a father recently and without proper paternity leave to care for my new-born baby, it is hard on my wife and me,” explained Jasper Ooi.
Another petitioner, Priyasheni Paramasivan, also echoed Ooi’s sentiment.
“I just gave birth to a premature baby and my husband had only two days of paternity leave. I still need him to check on the baby who is in the neonatal intensive care unit and support me,” said Priyasheni.
Meanwhile, other petitioners emphasised that workplaces must better support parents.
“Seven days of paternity leave should be the absolute minimum. You can’t expect your employee to perform at his best when you’re forcing him to choose between work and family,” said Abol Hanif Abol Munafi.
Paternity leave is common in many countries. Singapore has two weeks of paid paternity leave; Myanmar, 15 days and the Philippines, between seven to 14 days.
The petition, which was launched in June 2019, has garnered 39,340 signatures, of which 38,878 were collected online and 462, offline.
Readers can sign the petition here. at bit.ly/rights4parents.