On Thursday, May 3, the House of Representatives rejected a bill seeking to give optional paternity leave to Nigerian men whenever their wives welcome a baby. This development actually brought wide jubilation in some quarters in Nigeria where people think it is very unnecessary for men to be thinking of paternity leave. In fact, some social media users and critics even went to the extent of using insulting words against Members of the House of Reps for debating the bill in the first place.
Well, it is always good to operate from a position of knowledge. Those who think paternity leave is a waste of time and very unnecessary should take a quick look at this article. You will notice that in some countries men are practically being begged to go on paternity leave. You could even say they are being enticed with good extra pay or indirectly blackmailed into paternity leave so they could share the burden with their wife. In some countries, there is gender-indifference in such leaves, that is, men and women have equal number of days to go on leave once a child is born.
Even in Nigeria, paternity leave is not new. Just four months ago, Access Bank Plc came up with a policy which stated that starting January 2018, male employees of the Bank could take advantage of an enhanced parental leave policy that extended paid benefits to all mothers and fathers. The policy offered paid leave to all new parents at the Bank including mothers and fathers, as well as adoptive and surrogate parents.
So before you condemn paternity or anyone arguing in favour of a bill to have such leaves recognized in Nigeria, see what obtains in some other nations. In this interesting piece, Guy Kelly of The Telegraph UK was comparing what obtains in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world regarding the issue of paternity leave. There is a lot to learn from this piece.
Paternity leave: how Britain compares with the rest of the world
A new incentive was launched in Sweden this week encouraging fathers to take three months paid paternity leave. Like several European countries, Sweden has a ‘daddy quota’ of paid time off that’s allocated to couples as a unit, but only allowed to be taken by the father and therefore lost if he chooses not to take it. The new 30-day extension, which came into force on January 1, follows a successful increase to two months in 2002.
It’s a policy designed to ensure men take more of the childcare burden, and the latest change is expected to be embraced by fathers in Sweden, which was the first to introduce gender-indifferent parental leave in 1974. Already, men there take an average of three months off work to look after their newborns; in Britain less than 10% exceed the statutory two weeks, often citing a fear of falling behind in the rat race.
Currently UK fathers are eligible to take one or two weeks paid leaveany time within 56 days of the birth. As a result of changes championed by Nick Clegg in 2014, there is also an option of taking between two and 26 additional weeks off, with each extra week subtracted from your partner’s remaining allocation.
The Scandinavian stances on parental leave – as with so many other social policies – may make the UK’s seem staid and imbalanced, then, but how do our rights compare with fathers around the world?
The Spanish are typically relaxed with their parental policies: men are allowed 15 days paid, while new parents are then permitted a whopping 3 years unpaid. The catch, however, is that employers can to change their absentee’s role after a year off.
There is no federal paid parental leave (or maternity) in the USA, making it one of the few developed countries in the world lacking state support for new parents, though many states have their own systems.
Corporate policies can be very generous, too: last year Facebook brought male employees’ paid leave in line with women’s, meaning any new parent working at the social media company around the world is permitted four months of leave. Meanwhile Netflix allows unlimited paid time off for one year.
We beat the French, at least: new fathers across the channel are permitted 11 days paid leave, with an additional six months available without pay.
Icelandic fathers receive 90 days off after their baby’s birth, at a rate of around 80% of their salary, with a further three months to share with their partners.
To address the shame of being placed 115th of 145 in the World Economic Forum’s gender equality index, paternity leave has become a key issue in South Korea, where the government intends to increase the ratio of men taking leave to 30% over the next 15 years. Mothers and fathers there are entitled to the same amount of time off (a year) partially paid.
A year’s unpaid leave is on offer to both parents, but hardly any dads take it: as of 2014, only 1.9% availed themselves of the time off.
One of the more generous policies in Europe, Germany men and women have equal rights to parental leave of 12 to 14 months on 65% of the individual parent’s salary.
Like Sweden, Norway employs a ‘use it or lose it’ system, with 14 weeks (two more than new Swedish policy, even) available to new parents, but they lose the allocation collectively if fathers don’t accept their share of the burden.
What is your view on approval of paternity leave for workers in Nigeria?