WAO: Introduce seven-day paternity leave

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The Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) has called for the introduction of at least seven days of paternity leave, in light of upcoming amendments to the Employment Act.

“The Ministry of Human Resources should introduce at least seven days of paternity leave for fathers in the private sector, similar to the current paternity leave in the public sector,” said Sumitra Visvanathan, executive director of the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO).

Currently, fathers in the private sector are not legally entitled to any paternity leave, while fathers in the public sector enjoy seven days of paid paternity leave.

The Ministry of Human Resources has announced proposed amendments to the Employment Act; the latest proposal, as of March 2019, includes three days of paid paternity leave.

Sumitra further added that paternity leave is crucial in promoting shared responsibility among couples, which benefits fathers, mothers, and children.

“Paternity leave will enable fathers to play an active role during childbirth and to adjust to the monumental life changes that come with being a father.

“Various studies show that children with involved fathers have better social, emotional and cognitive development, and perform better in school.

“Introducing paternity leave also sends the message that caregiving is a shared responsibility. Such changes in social norms would help women to stay in the workforce.”

The Khazanah Research Institute estimates that a whopping 2,563,800 women in Malaysia were not working due to “housework or family responsibilities” – compared to just 69,800 men.

Sumitra also highlighted that keeping women in the workforce would benefit the economy.

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“Malaysia’s female labour force participation is only at 55.6% — one of the lowest in South East Asia — compared to 80.7% for that of men, as of 2018.

“A 2012 World Bank report estimates that if Malaysia were to eliminate the gender gap in labour force participation, income per capita could increase by 16%.”

Many countries have introduced paternity leave and it is time for Malaysia to move forward as well, Sumitra added.

According to a 2014 International Labour Organization report, 79 out of 167 countries have laws that provide for paternity leave. Both the Philippines and Singapore have two weeks of paid paternity leave.

The WAO has launched a petition calling for at least seven days of paternity leave, which is available here.

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