Child care leave for single male parents strikes a chord

Through the recommendation, Pay Commission has acknowledged care-giving responsibilities of men, say women’s rights activists


New Delhi: In the first step towards a change of mindset, the 7th Pay Commission has recommended that single male parents working in the central government be allowed child care leave (CCL)—a privilege only granted to women employees so far.

CCL, or extended leave for a period of up to two years for the care of children younger than 18 years, was first introduced by the 6th Pay Commission in 2008. CCL follows the principle of family leave and can only be availed once during a woman’s employment to enable her to prepare her children for exams or to look after them during illness.

Terming it a “liberal measure unmatched anywhere else”, the 7th Pay Commission for the first time brings single fathers into the purview of CCL. It acknowledges the care-giving responsibilities of men, women’s rights activists say.

“Parental responsibility is not restricted to women. Men are as responsible for the rearing of a child, as a woman,” says Rashmi Singh, a former director of the National Mission for Empowerment of Women.

The pay panel has recommended the beneficiaries be allowed to take CCL in six spells in a calendar year instead of the prevailing three spells for female workers.

But while the recommendations put responsibility on single fathers, they have not been extended to all fathers. This, say some activists, could reinforce the stereotype that mothers remain the primary caregivers, and fathers need to step in only when single.

“Ideally, one would want an equal distribution of responsibilities in a family. But the proposal is a step forward,” says Ritu Dewan, president of the Indian Association of Women’s Studies.

The Pay Commission recommendation might not be “comprehensive”, says Sairee Chahal, founder of Sheroes.in, a career platform for women, but it sends the “right message”.

“The Commission might just have taken into account the problem areas—what are the likelihood of a single father to get a leave to take care of his child? Looking at this recommendation, I think it is not very far that India will have more paternity leaves as well,” she says.

Some private companies in India have started looking at paternity benefits as a necessity. In fact, they even offer various packages for expecting or new fathers.

“As the industry wakes up to the reality of nuclear families and the challenges that come with it, companies need to realise that the birth of a child is a life-changing moment for an employee. Paternity leave also helps make sure that women continue to increasingly contribute to the workforce,” Farah Nathani Menzies, head, Diversity and Inclusion and Strategic Projects at Godrej Group, was quoted as saying in an article in Business Line in August.

The Pay Commission report also mentioned that to check the misuse of child care leave by female employees, who see it “as a benefit that has to be availed simply because it exists”, the commission has advised that the leave be granted at 100% of the salary for the first 365 days and 80% of the salary for the next 365 days.

The panel, however, rejected a demand to increase both the maternity and paternity leave granted to government employees. While women will continue to get leave of up to 180 days for pregnancy, a male employee with fewer than two children will be granted leave of 15 days “during his wife’s confinement”, up to 15 days before or six months from the date of delivery of the child.

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