Image Credit: Ramachandra Babu/Gulf News

While companies are making great strides in improving their maternity leave policies, paternity leave seems to be left unchanged. Currently, companies are not obligated under UAE law to provide paternity leave, although most offer two days off. How does this affect families? Is it time to change policies and extend paternity leave? Readers discuss.

The initial days after childbirth are critical

Ms Preethy Thomas Nazare

The topic of paternity leave is not just important; it is a necessity. Paternity leave was completely ignored in the past, and even now, not all companies are ready to openly discuss this matter. That’s because when a man enters the ‘new father’ phase in life, his attention level towards work is diverted and productivity is affected. However, emotional bonding for both parents is important for family life. The initial days after childbirth are critical for mothers and newborns, and enough time off must be given to fathers in order to be there for wife and child, especially if there is no one else to take care of them. For expat fathers, there are two scenarios. If the child is born in the UAE, the father should be entitled to at least 10 days off. If the child is born outside the country, at least 15 days leave should be provided, considering the travel time taken.

If extended paternity leave was provided in my family’s case, it would have been a great help for me as a mother. I could seek my husband’s help in putting my baby to sleep, changing diapers and swaddling. During this period, most mothers go through depression and anxiety, so it’s very important to have the husband’s presence and support. Having time off also allows couples to bond, so the father can share in the mother’s experiences and feelings in the first few weeks after birth.

From Ms Preethy Thomas Nazare
Homemaker, based in Sharjah

Parental leave policies should be laws

Mr Ardeshir Ghahremani

Paternity leave in the UAE has some major setbacks. First, there are no standard rules and policies for paternity leave in corporations or companies, big or small. For expatriate families, this is a major issue, as there is the question of how they can afford to start or grow a family. However, every country should have paternity leave written into law for all companies. In many Western or European countries, that is already the case. Ideally, major corporations should provide a minimum of 365 days or one year for parents, whether it is the father or mother of the child.

There are also other ways to go about it. When my son was born in Canada, my wife and I had the option to choose how we partitioned our maternity and paternity leaves, which we could divide between the two of us. This was based on government implementation, and not just company policy. We decided that my wife would take the entire time off, as it was better for her to spend time with our newborn child. Nevertheless, it was important that I had options as a father. I could have chosen anything between a day, six months, nine months, or even a year, with coverage based on my net income. Parental leave pay is also available in Canada, calculated around 55 per cent of one’s insurable income, paid bi-weekly for a year into one’s bank account.

Parental leave is very important, not only for the health of the child, but also for the stability of the entire family. That’s because taking time off means less stress on one family member and more family time.

From Mr Ardeshir Ghahremani
Aircraft loading supervisor, based in Dubai

The mother remains a priority

Ms Elena Khaletskaya

When a baby arrives, he or she needs only his mother: her voice, her heartbeat, her hands. While mother and child are adopting to the new life, the father has to lavish care upon them and other family members. For me, however, the first two to three months of a baby’s life are when traditional roles play the biggest part in the family structure, so the mother should be considered a priority, and the father can serve as part of a support system. This is based on the nature of childrearing, such as breastfeeding, which requires the mother to be present. After that, parents can take turns caring for the child.

From my experience, three days is enough for the father to put everything in place. After that, the mother can handle being by herself during the working day. However, on evenings and weekends, she will definitely need that support. The father can spend time with the baby at least two to four hours after working, and then more time during weekends.

As you may know, after delivery, most mothers go through depression, breastfeeding issues, lack of sleep, and other difficulties. It may not happen constantly, but it could still happen. If the father can take one to two days off to give some support periodically during this time or at least help the mother retrieve her mental and physical condition, that would be enough.

Ideally, a total of one to one and a half weeks of paternity leave could be given in the first quarter, to be taken flexibly. This is enough time to cover the most important days and make new family life less stressful. In some countries, families can make the decision to split the days for parental leave between mother and father, and this arrangement allows for more freedom and rights to women.

From Ms Elena Khaletskaya
Project manager, based in Abu Dhabi

Paternity leave is essential for stability of the family

Mr Murugesh SS Sivam

Milestones such as the birth of a child are important in everyone’s life. The events that precede and follow the birth of a child are more significant in terms of building a family. The child’s birth augurs a new era and the parents are generally overwhelmed and the good feeling lasts for quite some time. Such periods demand extra focus and efforts from the parents. Every wife expects her husband to be supportive during the period of delivery. Maternity leave for a woman is provided to ensure that she recovers from the physical, physiological and psychological change that has transformed the life. However, the husbands also undergo stress owing to the extra care and attention needed for the wife and the newborn. Hence, this underscores the need for the presence of undivided attention from the husband. The concept of paternity leave should be viewed in broader terms as being essential for the growth and stability of the family. Although it may not require extended periods of time, a minimum of two weeks and a maximum of four weeks may be considered, as this is imperative for the emotional support to the husband’s better half and to provide care during the post-delivery period. A week prior to the delivery and a week after would be ideal for the husband to be by the side of his wife and provide the assistance that will keep her safe, reassured and happy. Another two weeks off can be provided on a case-by-case case basis, considering the usual complications such as a caesarean birth. Whatever the case might be, the length of paternity leave should be sufficient enough to facilitate the husband to rejoice, support and plan for the next few months. Any other person other than the husband may provide the physical support required (such as the mother or mother — in-law of the wife, as found commonly among the people from the subcontinent), but the role of a husband in promoting the mental health of the wife is very crucial. Hence, it would be a great idea to propose extended paternity leave for men.

From Mr Murugesh SS Sivam
Operations manager, based in Dubai