Cautious response to Phillips's paternity leave law promise

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Senior staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, September 23, 2019

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A declaration by People's National Party (PNP) President Dr Peter Phillips that the next Government the party forms will legislate paternity leave has been met with uncertainty and caution by two of the country's private sector leaders.

Phillips was addressing the public session of the PNP's 81st annual conference yesterday when he made the disclosure.

“...The next PNP Government will pass a paternity leave law that will require fathers to accept responsibility for their children and to be involved in the lives of their children,” Phillips told scores of Comrades at the National Arena in St Andrew.

Yesterday, when contacted, Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica President Howard Mitchell told the Jamaica Observer that the organisation remains concerned that the productivity rate in the private sector is low and will be further impacted by the granting of paternity leave.

“To add paternity leave to the mix would need some thought. We're not opposed to it in principle, but we do feel that that topic needs to be approached with caution from the point of view of productivity,” said Mitchell.

“...Before you can talk about paternity leave you have to prove that you're the father and have to accept the responsibilities of fatherhood. So that would be a given. In addition, my concern, as I said before, is that we think through that process carefully in order to ensure that people who get paternity leave are the fathers; that when they get the paternity leave they use it for the purpose of bonding with both mother and child. To be honest, we would have to hear more about that plan,” he added.

Jamaica Employers' Federation (JEF) President David Wan said while paternity leave may be a “good thing to do” there are some minefields in the implementation of this policy.

“The devil is in the details. For example, for those private sector and even public sector employers who would want to sign up for a system like this, they would, I suspect, have limits on the number of times someone could get paternity leave. So if you want to go have 10 children that's your business, but we'll give you twice,” Wan said.

“Even within those limits, the feedback I'm getting is that the private sector employers would even want to limit it to something like and this is not hard and fast one within every year. For example, it's conceivable that a man can have two children at the same time in the same year with two different ladies, so I don't think they would want to include that because that is encouraging irresponsible behaviour,” he added.

He pointed out, too, that if private sector companies are going to be asked to grant paternity leave as law, fathers' names must be on the child's birth certificate.

“That is one of the requirements. You can't just claim it and say that's your child but your name is not on the birth certificate. So we'd be trying to encourage responsible behaviour. So we're encouraging the reasonable use of it. It is not to encourage irresponsible behaviour — so limiting the number over any lifetime as well as the period in-between them. You can't have two simultaneous ones within nine months,” the JEF head said.


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