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Not just mothers, dads need paternity leave too

On the occasion of Father’s Day, we spoke to Shamsuddin Jasani of Isobar and Sunil Seth of Dentsu Aegis Network about how paternity policies have taken shape in their companies

In a patriarchal society like India, one wonders what kind of a role fathers play in the upbringing of a child. Is it that a woman is burdened with the responsibilities of home and the children? Or with the new-age set-up, are fathers contributing in sharing the duties too?

With the government mandate, a maternity leave of six months has been assured to mothers. Most private organisations follow the rule. However, there is no paternity policy in place for fathers who wish to take time off to spend with their newborn child and spouse.

BestMediaInfo.com spoke to Shamsuddin Jasani (also known as Shams), Group MD, Isobar South Asia and Sunil Seth, Head, HR Business Partner, South Asia, Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN) to figure out the paternity leave system in companies.

DAN allows maternity leave for six months and follows guidelines laid down by the Maternity Act put in place by the government. “At the same time, we are considerate enough to look at cases that require extension or allow work from home for returning mothers for an additional three to six months,” explained Seth.

The paternity leaves offered at DAN is five working days and is entirely flexible, which a father can consume within the first three months.

Isobar, part of DAN, has some rules in place that are over and above the DAN regulations. Apart from the six months and five days, maternity and paternity leaves, respectively, Isobar also has a rule that a woman can come back after 18 months — so even if she leaves the job, she is guaranteed a job back.

Isobar allows fathers to work from home from a case-to-case basis, up to three to four times in a month. It’s not part of DAN’s rule, it’s just for Isobar where they understand that there is a certain requirement. They anyway follow it irrespective of the person being a parent or for certain family requirement — that extends to being a father, or having an ill parent at home. It is not exactly paternity leave but they allow that flexibility to a male employee.

Shamsuddin Jasani

“The number of days for paternity leave is less that’s why we have given this flexibility of work from home. I guess we need to change that. We need to follow what Sweden does, which is equal number of leaves for men and women,” said Jasani.

“My wife is working too. We are a nuclear family. It’s just the two of us with our son. I totally understand the responsibilities we share along with our wives; we are equally responsible for bringing up our children. Fathers understand their part of the responsibility in this as well, so that’s something that we allow,” he clarified.

Sunil Seth

Seth says a holistic approach is needed when they look at policies and benefits. DAN offers mediclaim coverage to cover self plus three dependents (spouse + two kids) with an adequate cover. Flexibility to extend the protection is provided at an extra cost. Being an organisation where the average age is in a range of 25-30 years, a benefit to cover maternity is critical, and their policy provides this benefit for the first two kids. A father/mother can enrol their kid in the first month of birth under the policy as a dependent, which ensures safety in any eventuality.

A father is a son too, and DAN has a group parent policy where employees can cover their parents. This policy allows pre-existing ailments coverage with facilities such as cashless and coverage for 60+ years of parents.

In the case of DAN and Isobar, and in most companies/agencies, the number of paternity leaves is not on a par with the number of maternity leaves. Why so? Shouldn't the paternal leaves be as much as maternal leaves? Then why is it not so?

“The government is already working on the draft for a Paternity Bill. Various organisations had already started adopting practices similar to ours and are evolving as time progresses. We are changing our benefits such as these with time,” specified Seth.

Jasani pointed out, “I think we don’t do enough. Honestly, a lot of fathers don’t come across to ask for paternity leaves. Our society is such that it’s a given that a woman would work from home, take a break from work and her husband goes to work immediately. And more than anything else, they feel the societal pressure to conform to what’s happening around them. We don’t get too many fathers asking for very long leaves. Whatever is there, they are more than happy with it.”

“They will juggle, they will spend sleepless nights. It’s just that the society would want them to come back to work; they would feel the pressure of that. The new-age people are asking for paternity leave. But otherwise if you’re asking point blank, and just because you or somebody else is asking, they would want to give the right answers. But I don’t think in our society, too many fathers really ask for that because they feel that they need to go back to work and need to earn a living, rather than being at home,” he added.

How essential is it to provide paternity leave?

Seth emphasised, “It’s essential to provide paternity leaves. Not only do the new-born need attention and great care but the mother also can enjoy the emotional support of her life partner and cherish great memories for the future. In today’s fast-paced life, such leaves allow a father to create a support system that can ease any unwarranted pressure for day-to-day activities while he is at work.”

“It’s the society that we live in, it’s a patriarchal society. We are just trying to get a better balance. While the Western world is not. We have reservations and all that stuff, and sometimes we go the other way in correcting things. And we do need to get a little more balance in our society, men need to contribute. They need time off, I can say from my own experience,” Jasani signed off.


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