MORE SUPPORT NEEDED FOR WORKING FATHERS
However, official statistics show that only 53 per cent of eligible fathers in 2021 took government-paid paternity leave.
Paternity leave has been doubled to four weeks from this year, although the additional two weeks is currently still voluntary for employers. It is anyone’s guess what percentage of new fathers will fully utilise their paternity leave this year. What is certain though is that it’s not just up to dad and mum, but also employers, public policies and society-at-large to help men be the best fathers they can be to their children.
A greater shift in workplace culture is needed. Through the years, workplaces have become more empathetic and accommodating towards working mothers, offering amenities such as lactation rooms and flexible working hours or jobs. That’s a great thing, but what about accommodations for fathers?
Through my interactions with stakeholders, I’ve been told that some fathers who request for work flexibility encounter hurdles such as gender stereotyping and threatened career progression. I’ve also been told that some fathers had to consider a job change due to misalignment of values with their employers, or job demands that make being an involved parent unsustainable.
To support working mums and dads, workplaces should be open to various flexible working arrangements for both men and women. Management needs to lead by example so that staff are encouraged to make their families a priority.
For many companies, this might entail restructuring roles, enhancing processes, introducing digital solutions, or adding manpower. While this can be costly, businesses must consider longer-term returns such as in talent attraction and retention, and building a value-based business that employees and customers appreciate.
The additional two weeks of government-paid paternity leave is a good start and is well-intended to encourage fathers to be more involved with their newborns. However, the employer’s choice in whether employees receive this benefit surfaces the challenges fathers face in utilising parental leave.
Unlike medical or childcare leave entitlements, the employer determines whether to offer the additional paternity leave. In a CNA article last month, several companies expressed reservations on a blanket implementation of extra paternity leave, citing the need to balance the employee benefit with business considerations.