In September 2017, pursuant to enactment of Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017, a bill known as the Paternity Benefit Bill, 2018 ("PB Bill") was proposed in the Lok Sabha mandating that paternity leave of fifteen days (extendable up to three months) be granted to new fathers. The idea behind the PB Bill is to recognize that the role of a father as a contributor to child rearing is of paramount importance, and to give new fathers the opportunity to bond with their children without compromising on their need to provide for their family. As a matter of fact, the International Labour Organization's ("ILO") Maternity and Paternity at Work Report 2014 1quoted researcher Erin Rehel on role of the father, "By drawing fathers into the daily realities of childcare, free of workplace constraints, extended time off provides the space necessary for fathers to develop the parenting skills and sense of responsibility that then allows them to be active co-parents rather than helpers to their female partners".
In its 2014 report, ILO stated that there is no standard that deals specifically with paternity leave however, the 2009 International Labour Conference Resolution concerning gender equality recognized that work–family reconciliation measures concern women and also men alike. Therefore, a variety of measures (such as provision of paternity leave and/ or parental leave) are called for to permit working fathers to be more involved in the sharing of family responsibilities.
If the PB Bill gets to see the light of day, it will bring great comfort to male employees across all sectors, since the said bill aims to cover the organised sector (the Government sector), the unorganized sector (the private sector) and the self-employed. Moreover, every male employee, who has worked for a minimum of 80 days in an establishment, becomes entitled to receive paternity benefits. Paternity benefits are calculated at the average daily wage paid to the employee for the number of days actually worked by him.
Further, the PB Bill proposes the creation of a fund known as the Parental Benefit Scheme Fund. Under the terms of the Fund, the employer, employee and the Central Government have to contribute a certain amount towards the fund. The fund would be utilized to meet the costs related to paternity benefits under the PB Bill. Moreover, the Central Government reserves the right to issue guidelines known as the Parental Benefit Scheme for the sole purpose of providing paternity benefits to every new father under the said Bill.
It is interesting to note that at present, all India and Central Civil Services Rules allow Central government employees 15 days of paternity leave. This also extends to cases where a child has been adopted.
We also came across a 2009 judgment in the matter of Chander Mohan Jain v. N.K Bagrodia Public School, where a private school teacher approached the Delhi High Court to challenge the rejection of his paternity leave application and deductions from his salary for availing paternity leaves. The Delhi High Court held that "all male employees of unaided recognized private schools were entitled to paternity leave". The court directed the school to refund the money that was deducted from the teacher's salary. While this judgment may not have pioneered the need to have a paternity benefit act in place, it does go to show that there has been some traction in India to give men the opportunity to bond with their new born.
In light of the above, with the enactment of the PB Bill, this will be one of the better welfare legislations of recent times and will align India with global employment regulations and best practices.
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