Paternity leave is critical | News | Jamaica Gleaner

by pregnancy journalist

Since 1979, Jamaican women have been enjoying paid maternity leave as provided for under the Maternity Leave Act, as long as they have been working with the same employer for at least one year.

And for many years now, the idea that male employees should be accorded the same privilege has been floating about. Thus, paternity leave is defined as “a leave (paid or unpaid time off) from employment that allows fathers to bond with the mother and newborn child”.

This idea has gained much traction of late, especially at the recent International Men’s Day forum organised by the Ministry of Culture, Gender Entertainment and Sport (MCGES) and the Bureau of Gender Affairs, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Jamaica and the Citizen Security and Justice Programme in the Ministry of Justice.

In addressing the gathering, Denzil Thorpe, permanent secretary in the MCGES, said such an act would be in line with the recommendations of the National Policy for Gender Equality. He said there would be consultations on the relevance of paternity leave to the Jamaican society and the parameters of the Paternity Leave Act.


Thorpe also said his ministry seeks to introduce paternity leave as a benefit to men as fathers are part of the Jamaican workforce. For gender to be truly transformative, it has to be inclusive, he said.

Also endorsing the idea for paternity leave in Jamaica were the director of The University of the West Indies Institute of Gender and Development Studies, Professor Opal Adisa; and Bruno Pouzeat, UNDP’s resident representative in Jamaica.

The major highlight of the day was the presentation of the findings of a piece of research done by the Bureau of Gender Affairs, through the Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA) to gauge people’s attitude towards paternity leave.

The survey was conducted in 2011 by way of a questionnaire completed by members of the JCSA, with the aim of collecting qualitative and quantitative data. Interestingly, females (62 per cent) made up the majority of those who responded to the questionnaire. There were more female respondents in all the age groupings except one – the 18-30 age group. The majority of the respondents were between the ages 31-40 and 41-50 years old.


Seventeen fathers said they took time off to assist the mother of their child/children when she gave birth. The same number indicated that they were living with the mother of the child/children at the time of birth. All the fathers believed that paternity leave would help them to bond with the newborn, and said that they would take other available leave to carry out their parental responsibilities if paternity leave were not available.

Of the mothers, 20 of the 33 said the father of their child/children took time to assist after they had given birth. Twenty-five said they were living with the father of their child at the time of the birth, while 30 of them believed that paternity leave would help the father bond with the newborn. The same number would like it if the father of their child took other available leave to carry out their parental responsibilities if paternity leave were not available.

As it relates to the provisions of the act itself, the great majority (79 per cent) agree or strongly agree that Jamaican fathers should be entitled to paternity leave. The percentage dropped slightly to 64 for those who believe that fathers should be entitled to paid paternity leave on three occasions. It dipped significantly to 43 for those who agree or strongly agree that the length of paternity leave should be equal to that of maternity leave.

The support is also strong from those who agree or disagree that Jamaican fathers would use paternity leave to help care for their child/children and their mother. They also strongly believe that paternity leave is necessary to improve the quality of family life. Seventy-four per cent believe that fathers should be entitled to paternity leave regardless of their marital status, while 62 per cent believe proof of paternity should be provided to the employer before paternity leave is granted.

This content was originally published here.

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