The Lagos State Government scored another first among the States of the federation when it recently granted a 10-day Paternity leave to its male civil servants while extending the maternal leave from 3 to 6 months. The paternity leave is directly tied to the first two deliveries only. A third delivery would only attract 12 weeks 100% paid maternal leave.
The action of the Lagos State Government has been receiving commendations from many as the recipe for a strong family. In particular, Roman Catholics see the policy as an endorsement of the 2014 Year of the Family declared by His Grace, Archbishop Adewale Martins of the See of Lagos. The policy portrays Governor Fashola’s administration as being committed to the wellbeing of the family, moreover, the six months duration allows nursing mothers to feed their babies exclusively on breast milk.
Parental leave or family leave, called partner leave in Germany,is an employee benefit that is granted in most countries as maternity, paternity or adoption leaves. The employee is paid to remain at homefor a stipulated time to care for a newborn or sort out issues affecting a child’s welfare.Governor Fasholaappear to have realized that the mega Lagos of his dreams will be more cohesive if the family as the smallest unit of society were re-engineered.
He got it right with this new policy even though there are those who believe that as a politician he has just played a pre-election joker. Others believe that time is running out on Governor BabatundeFashola’s second and last term in office and the gentleman is displaying his love of the working class by granting benefits based on his beliefs and not as a reaction to advocacy. A few believe that the paternity leave is another fad by the LASG in line with the cynic phrase ‘Eko for show’, another flash in the pan for the Center of Excellence. This cynicism merely underscores the novelty of the paternity idea in this country.
When Zinox Technologies, the first organization to grant Paternity leave in Nigeria, announced in 2012 that its male staff could enjoy Paternity leave, the news sounded as far-fetched as Nigeria landing on the moon. The company announced that male staff were entitled to a paternity leave of 2 days for senior staff and 3 days for junior staff.Like all brilliant trail-blazers, the announcement was taken with skepticism in a few quarters but many thought it was a humble start for an idea that could make a difference in family relationships and re-ordering our values as a people. Those who thought it was a good idea were quick to list the benefits of Paternal leave to include the capacity of the father to contribute to the prenatal and post natal care necessary to nurture a balanced baby, male presence at this fragile moment would instill confidence and give everyone a firmer grip on things, and the couple also enjoys a great sense of bonding.
The benefits of paternity leave also rub off on the employer and the country. It would be insensitive to expect that a male staff would give himself fully to his work when his wife is in the labor ward or has just been delivered of a baby. Definitely, this happy man with divided attention would be fulfilled sitting beside his wife as the new baby arrives. He would be eternally grateful to the organization he works for if he was officially excused from work with a little money in his pocket. Expectedly, the male staff returns to his work more loyal and more productive. A content work force is a plus to the development plans of any nation. Paternity leave is an accepted workers benefit in most of the countries that are recognized as the first world or developed nations.
Sweden has about the most generous paternal leave where at least 60 days out of the 480 days set aside for parental leave following the birth of a new baby is reserved for the male partner. The paid leave per child, in Sweden, is pegged at 77.6% of the employee’s monthly salary up to a ceiling of $3,400 per month. The cost is shared between the employer and the State. Norway has similar generous parental leave entitlements. Belgium has 3 days paternity leave paid 100% by the employer plus an additional 7 days that is paid 82% by the insurance company. In Denmark a father is entitled to 2 weeks of the 52 weeks paid parental leave. Whereas in Germany parental leave is referred to as partner months consisting of 12/14 months 65% paid up to a limit of 1,800 Euro per month. Italy 13 weeks 80% paid.
The foregoing shows that paternity leave is an accepted workers’ benefit internationally. Zinox Technologies, run by computer whiz kid Leo Stan Ekeh, acted in its character of always adapting to world-class standards with its introduction of paternity leave in Nigeria. Good ideas, like good writing styles would always have followers and sooner than later many States of the Federation would follow the example of Lagos and bring paternity leave to more Nigerians.This might just be the right therapy for a country that has had her values turned upside down by oil induced corruption, materialism, ethnicity, religious bigotry and now fundamentalism. A deepening of family values would set the stage for a societal renaissance.
The National and State Assemblies ought to take a cue from the selfless posture of Governor Fashola’s initiative and act in the interest of the people. The NGOs and advocacy groups should align themselves to this lofty ideal and for once give the male folk a sense of belonging, a departure from the trend of treating the male as a gender who must forfeit some of his surplus benefits and privileges
By Ibrahim Zanda