The recent proposal to grant three days of paternity leave for employees in the private sector under the Employment Act is a timely and welcomed move by the Malaysian Human Resources Ministry.
Although relatively shorter than the leave provisioned in the Malaysian public sector and many other countries, the amendment is an important, first step towards acknowledging the role of men not only as workers but also fathers and husbands.
Unfortunately, this view is not shared by the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF). MEF opposes the move to provide new fathers any parental leave, citing a huge economic and competitive loss by companies should the leave be made compulsory. WAFIQ could not disagree more with MEF with reasons amongst which are explained below.
The arrival of a new baby is one of the most significant milestones a family could achieve in their lifetime. It goes without saying that each partner has a paramount role to play in not only ensuring that the baby is safe and sustained, but the mother’s well-being is taken care of too. New mothers face physical trauma and are also at a more emotionally and psychologically vulnerable state after childbirth. The lack of proper care and support risk mothers to anxiety and postnatal depression, with psychosis being one of the more extreme cases. Tragic stories of mothers committing suicide and murdering their own children run true; it is not impossible that postnatal mental illness resulting from negligence in maternal care is the root cause.
It is important to note that not all new mothers have access to proper care by extended family members or helpers, and therefore rely solely on the husband for help. Not providing the necessary parental leave for fathers jeopardises the mother and baby’s health, and in turn affects the father’s mental and emotional well-being due to the stress happening at home.
Inevitably, these aspects would create a negative impact on workers’ job performance and satisfaction, costing the employer and company more harm than good in the long run.
It is high time for all employers to start seeing the long-term benefits in providing paternity leave to employees on the company’s work culture and human resource.
More fundamentally, there is a real need for male employees to be acknowledged and respected by their employers as individuals with roles and responsibilities that go beyond those confined in their workplace. Doing so only makes us human.
Dr. Hazlin Chong
International Women’s Alliance for Family and Quality Education