JCSA in talks with Gov't for parental leave, says president

Senior staff reporter

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

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HEAD of the Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA) Oneil Grant says it is time for extensive legislation to address time-off from work for parents to deal with the wide range of parenting matters which often arise, requiring leave.

Men, he said, have increasingly taken on roles in the family, but that supporting legislation is still lagging.

“A lot of men have taken on nurturing roles and it has not gone unnoticed by some of us in society, but unfortunately our legislative arrangements have not moved with any pace to recognise the changing nature of roles in our society… I don't think our legislation has gone far enough to look at the issue of parenting and not just issues to look at maternity and paternity,” he stated.

Grant was addressing stakeholders at yesterday's International Men's Day forum held at the University of the West Indies Regional headquarters in Mona, St Andrew.

The main discussion topic was proposed paternity leave for Jamaican fathers, and Grant also pointed out that parenting speaks more broadly to issues such as adoption.

“It (adoption) brings to the fore the issue of parenting, because a child doesn't have to be yours biologically for you to be the parent of that child. A lot of persons are resisting adoption because you get no support and they have to rely on their own means to take care of that child, and the adjustment can be very difficult,” he said.

Grant noted also that because there is no legislative framework in place for parenting, if a child falls ill for example, parents have to devise other means to secure time to care for them.

He highlighted the 2014 outbreak of Chikungunya, for example, and in subsequent years hand-food-and-mouth disease which affected a number of children.

“People take no pay leave, people absent themselves from work and call in and tell a lie, and the parents share the time between themselves but that mother or father may be infected (and) they come into the work space, having been exposed to the virus that the child has, and the work space gets contaminated. [Other] parents then take it home and more children get infected because of the fact that we don't look at the issue of caregivers and how they are exposed when they have to care for that child when they become ill,” Grant said.

He said the JCSA has asked the Government to look at the issue of parental leave and not just the existing maternity leave, and proposed paternity leave.

“If we take it in that respect, it makes it a little bit easier for us to look at the issue through a true gender lens and not just looking at it from a man's perspective or a woman's perspective…you look at the whole issue of gender and how it impacts the situation,” he stated.

The JCSA, he said, is now working with the Government on the establishment of an absence management policy to cover a range of factors that could cause an employee to be absent from work, and how to treat these situations.

Grant said some other jurisdictions view parents as a unit, and allow a shared length of leave where each parent can determine how much leave they each need.

He noted also that parents no longer have the luxury of support from an extended household in Jamaica. “There is no grandmother to leave that child with and no aunts… because everybody is out there working and trying to look after themselves, so you see all the connected dots why we are saying it's not just about maternity and paternity, it has to do with parental leave, and maternity leave and paternity leave are just subsets of parental leave,” he stressed.

The forum was hosted by the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport and the Bureau of Gender Affairs, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme, and the Citizen Security and Justice Programme.

It was held under the theme, “Reinforcing Positive Male Role Models”, and focused on proposed legislation for fathers to be granted paternity leave.

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