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Childcare leave for single fathers in government jobs is now a reality, but leaving married men out of it reinforces the mother’s role as the primary parent.
The central government has given a year-end gift to single fathers working as government employees. It has accepted the recommendations of 7th Pay Commission regarding childcare leave for single male government employees. In a circular on 11.12.18 the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has announced that childcare leave (CCL) of 730 days which was till now available to only female employees will now be admissible to single fathers too. Single male parent is defined as unmarried, widower and divorcee government servant. Childcare leave for single fathers was a long pending demand and with this notification the government has provided a major relief to them.
In its report the 7th Pay Commission had noted that ‘in the event a male employee is single, the onus of rearing and nurturing the children falls squarely on his shoulders’ and hence they should also be given the benefit of CCL for the upbringing, education, illness of two eldest children below the age of 18 years. Just like female employees now they can also avail the scheme in three spells in one calendar year.
However, the commission has also recognized the additional responsibility of childcare on the shoulders of employees who are single mothers. Accordingly, for single mothers the conditionality of CCL in three spells in a calendar year has been relaxed to six spells in a calendar year. In a significant move last year, the government had increased the duration of fully paid maternity leave for workers in government and the organized sector from 12 weeks to 26 weeks.
In its report the 7th Pay Commission had observed that many beneficiaries tend to misuse the provision of CCL and also argued that ‘it was necessary to bring in an inhibiting feature so as to ensure that only genuinely affected employees take benefit of this scheme’. Taking into cognizance this recommendation by the Pay Commission, a salary cut has been introduced in the new order. From now onwards all beneficiary employees will be paid 100% salary for the first 365 days of CCL but they will be paid only 80% of their admissible salary for the remaining 365 days.
Also, CCL is not to be given for less than five days in one spell. In addition to this, CCL will not be admissible during the probation period except in ‘extreme cases’.
This new provision of childcare leave for single fathers is certainly going to benefit them in discharging their duty and responsibility towards the care of their children but a question arises about the responsibility of husbands of female employees towards their children? No doubt the provision of fully paid maternity leave of 180 days (26 weeks) and CCL of 730 days is unmatched anywhere in the world but at the same time the provision for paternity leave is a meagre two weeks only. This anomaly reinforces traditional gender role and general perception that mother is the primary and sole caregiver of children and thus negates the need for the father to undertake some (if not equal) responsibility of childcare.
Besides this, the government is yet to consider the concept of shared parental leaves which is already the norm in many countries. Shared parental leaves imply that both the mother and father are equally responsible for the care of children and both of them should be able to take leave from work as per their mutual understanding and convenience. As a matter of fact, a few countries like Sweden and Norway have made it mandatory for the father to take a certain number of leaves for taking care of the newborn child. This not only helps the mother regain her health faster but also enables her to return to work sooner and in a much healthier state of mind too. Not to be forgotten is another very important fact that shared parental leaves enable the father in forging a stronger bond with the child.
Even though paid maternity leave of 26 weeks has been made mandatory in government as well as organized sector, let’s hope the provision of childcare leave would also be implemented in the organized sector in the coming years.
Image source: unsplash
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