Is maternity leave for men necessary in Nigeria?

Medical science has proven that maternity and paternity leaves play great role in the physical, mental and emotional development of the child.
While maternity leave policy has been around, the country is yet to pass the bill for paternity leave.
But the question is, is paternity leave necessary in Nigeria? AJUMA EDWINA OGIRI writes.

Paternity leave in Nigerian laws Paternity leave is defined as a period of paid absence from work, to which a man is legally entitled immediately after the birth or adoption of his child.
In the UK, the paternity leave is currently two weeks.
In Canada, men get a couple of days off, as negotiated with their individual employers.
The Nigeria Labour Law stipulates that all female employees are entitled to at least 12 weeks’ maternity leave with full pay.
Unfortunately, the Nigerian Labour Act does not recognise paternity leave and makes no such provisions.
However, in Lagos State civil servants are entitled to 10 days’ paternity leave within the first two months of the birth of the baby.

Lawmakers shut down bill on paternity leave A Bill for an Act to make provisions for optional paternity leave to all married male employees in private and public service was recently shut down by the House of Representatives.
The Bill, which was sponsored by Edward Pwajok from Plateau, subsequently failed to scale through as it was roundly defeated with a unanimous voice vote.
In order for the Bill to become a law, the Bill needed to pass the second reading, a committee review as well as a third reading before presidential assent.
Some lawmakers’ rejection of the Bill was based on cultural nuances; like in the case of polygamy, where there is possibility of a father taking paternity leave several times a year.
Members, who balked at the idea of granting paternal leave to Nigerian male workers, said that the Nigerian cultural and economic environment was not ripe for such privilege yet.
According to Pwajok, the proposal for a two week or more; depending on the decision of the of House, paternity leave is to ensure that mother and child get adequate care from the father, and that the presence of the father will also be very significant if the mother or the child had health challenges.
“No better person can support a newly born baby than the father, which will make the child more emotionally stable if the father stays close.
This will not be peculiar to Nigeria alone, it’s done globally,” he said.
While few lawmakers supported the proposal, saying that since it was a joint responsibility to take care of the children, the leave will afford the husband to take care of the child too, another member of the House of Representatives, Betty Apiafi, from Rivers state, said since maternity leave issue was discussed in the Labour Act, it would have been better if it came as an amendment to the Act and not as a Bill.
Nevertheless, the motion was defeated with a resounding voice vote, with some lawmakers stating that “men should be out trying to provide for the upkeep of the family, rather than staying back at home.”

 Bank, Lagos, Enugu introduce paid paternity leave In 2017, Access Bank made headlines for being the first financial institution in Nigeria to grant staff paternity leave; a week of fully paid time off work.
According to a statement by the bank’s Head, Group Human Resources, Bolaji Agbede, the newly introduced parental leave policy is to allow parents to truly bond with their new child, balance their work schedule and help reduce conflict with parental obligations.
She said: “The policy which is designed to foster an inclusive workplace, offers paid leave to all new parents at the bank including mothers and fathers, as well as adoptive and surrogate parents.
“The new policy which is the first by a Nigerian bank, offers one week fully paid paternity leave to male employees and allows them to care for their offspring and spend some quality time with the new addition to their family while supporting the new mother who needs the break.
“Also included in the new policy is a surrogacy or adoptive leave with full pay for three calendar months for female employees of the bank.
These benefits supplement the 12 weeks of paid leave Access Bank currently provides to birth mothers.
The policy also complements the bank’s existing health and flexible workplace benefits, which support worklife balance.” Continuing, she said: “Studies have shown that fathers who take paternity leave are more likely to take an active role in child care tasks and will continue to play this role long after the period of leave has ended.
It is important for the new father to take time off as it helps all parents, regardless of family structure.
This new policy is an evidence of the bank’s support to employees during this wonderful but challenging time in their lives.
“Furthermore, a pregnant employee who has been in the bank’s employment for 12 consecutive months also has the option of 6 calendar months maternity leave with two-thirds of full month pay, while the surrogacy or adoptive leave period is three calendar months with full pay or six calendar months leave with two-thirds of full month pay.” In 2014, the then Lagos state Governor, Babatunde Fashola, approved 10 days Paternity Leave for any male civil servant in the state whose wife delivers a new baby.
According to him, the measure is to afford them the opportunity of attending to developmental needs of the child.
Enugu followed suit in 2015, some healthy administrative changes were taking roots in Lagos and Enugu states.
In both states, not only have they introduced Paternity Leave into their workforce; they have also increased the traditional maternity leave from 12 weeks to 24 weeks.
In Lagos State, a man to whom a new baby or babies; in the case of multiple births is born, is entitled to 10 working days paternity leave for their spouse’s first two deliveries.
In Enugu State, the paternity leave is three weeks to support his nursing wife.

Expert’s view In an exclusive interview with Blueprint Weekend, a consultant Obstetrician and Gynecologist at Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Jabi, Dr.
Benedict Ekaidem, said when it comes to the issue of paternity leave, there will always be arguments in favour and against.
However, he thinks advocating for Paternity Leave should not be out of place.
“As a gynaecologist, we will always advocate for women and the care of mothers.
The post-natal period; that is the period after child birth, can be very challenging for the mothers, so the mothers actually need a lot of support.
“Traditionally, it would have been the women who would be allowed to go on maternity leave, but recently they have been people trying to advocate for leave too for the men, to be able to support their wives.
I think Paternity leave should be introduced, maybe not as much as we would be advocating for the mothers, because they are the ones really involved.
They are the ones breastfeeding and looking after the child,” he said.
Continuing, he said: “It would be okay to have the fathers take at least one month, especially for new mothers.
Even if we cannot afford one month, two weeks may be okay to support these women in the very immediate post natal period where there will be a lot of demands.
“Sometimes the child birth process may not go as smooth as expected, due to some complications, or maybe the mother had a surgery or had to be admitted in the hospital for a longer time.
If it’s a mother that has other children, the father will have to be shuffling between the home, because of the other children, and the hospital.
“I think advocating for Paternity leave shouldn’t be out of place.
Even if government cannot afford one month, I think two weeks should go a long way to helping these families.” With the failure of lawmakers to pass the Paternity Leave Bill for married male employees, and many employers not adopting the policy in Nigeria, is there any hope for the married Nigerian male worker in this regard in the near future? Only time will tell!

 

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The “Egberi Papa 1 Of Bayelsa” known for living the champagne lifestyle also told Vibe.ng how he manages to be a parent and musician.
He said, he and his kids are real to each other

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