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Women’s Aid Organisation calls for 7 days of paternity leave for fathers in the private sector through an online petition, which has garnered 39,340 signatures!

The petition advocating for 7 days of paternity leave was recently handed over to YB M. Kulasegaran, Minister of Human Resources and YB Hannah Yeoh, Deputy Minister of Women, Family and Community Development by the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO). With 39,340 signatures garnered from the public, the petition handover further reiterates the need for fathers to take on an active role as an equal parent in raising a child.

It’s still fresh in my memory, how my hubby was only given 1 day of paternity leave and subsequently had to apply for an extra day off to be there for me and our newborn. He had enough time only to get our new born registered and head to the market to shop for groceries. Having him around was a huge help to me hence I believe that 1 day or even the proposed 3 days of paternity leave will never be enough! In such a short duration, fathers don't have the time to bond with their little one or be there for their wife during the healing period.   

Last week, it was my first time gathering in front of the Parliament for a petition handover event and it was exciting to witness so many people come together, lobbying for 7 days of paternity leave. The teddy bears were to signify our children and showcase that this is for them. Daphne Iking and Jinnyboy were present at the event too, highlighting the importance of paternity leave and encouraging the concept of shared parenting. 

Daphne shared that with 7 days of paternity leave, fathers will have the opportunity to play an active role during childbirth and be there with their wife whilst sharing the responsibility of taking care of their newborn. For new parents, the first week is extremely crucial as the wife is healing from childbirth, and fathers need to be present and take up the responsibility of the child. This will allow new mothers to get sufficient rest and heal entirely after childbirth.  A lot of mothers also tend to suffer from postpartum depression, therefore having their husband around during this sensitive phase will ease their transition into parenthood.

Did you know that the concept of paternity leave is actually common in many countries across SouthEast Asia? In fact, Singapore has 2 weeks of paid paternity leave whereas Myanmar offers 15 days and the Philippines provides between 7 to 14 days for new fathers. The petition which was rolled out by WAO in June 2019 has since garnered 39,340 signatures, out of which 38,878 were collected online and 462 offline. 

“Many Malaysians want paternity leave and the government must heed this call,” said WAO Executive Director Sumitra Visvanathan when presenting the petition to Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran and Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh in Parliament today.

“The three days of paternity leave proposed by the government is a positive step, but it’s simply not enough. Fathers in the private sector deserve at least 7 days of paternity leave, similar to the existing paternity leave in the public sector,” Sumitra added.

Those who signed the petition also shared the challenges they had faced due to the lack of paternity leave. “I just became a father recently and without proper paternity leave to care for my newborn baby, it was hard on my wife and me,” explained Jasper Ooi.

Another petitioner, Priyasheni Paramasivan, also echoed Ooi’s sentiment. "I just gave birth to a premature baby and my husband had only two days of paternity leave. I still need him to check on the baby who is in the neonatal intensive care unit and support me,” said Priyasheni.

Meanwhile, other petitioners emphasised that workplaces must provide better support for new parents. “Seven days of paternity leave should be the absolute minimum. You can't expect your employee to perform at his best when you're forcing him to choose between work and family,” said Abol Hanif Abol Munafi.

The proposed 3 days of paternity leave is a positive start. However, it is not sufficient. Parents need more time in the initial transition phase into parenthood, not just as new parents but as partners as well. I hope that the government seriously takes all of this into consideration and introduces 7 days of paternity leave for fathers in the private sector. We need this for our current and future generation to raise healthy families, supported by shared parenting. Show your support by signing this petition and speak up for #7DaysforDads. 

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