Thursday 28 May, 2020

Survey: Majority of public sector workers support paternity leave

An online survey shows that more than 90 per cent of public servants in Jamaica would support the idea of paid paternity leave in the public sector.

However, the majority of millennials surveyed, 52 per cent, believe it would be abused if not properly managed, while only 36 per cent of the respondents, classified as Baby Boomers and Generation X, believe that it would.

The survey was conducted by the Hugh Shearer Labour Studies Institute at the University of the West Indies Open Campus, in collaboration with the Jamaica Civil Service Association through a MOU signed recently. The survey was conducted between January 27 and March 5, 2020, and had a total of 525 respondents.

A total of 58 per cent of the respondents believe that fathers should be able to benefit from paid paternity leave as much as three times in any one employment, while 18 per cent believe it should be one to two times in any one employment. Just over half of the respondents, 52 per cent, believe that fathers should be granted at least six weeks paid paternity leave, whereas 40 per cent believe it should be between three to four weeks.

Roberts... this preliminary study was more generational than gender focused.

Roughly half of the millennials believe that the benefits of paid paternity leave would lead to greater family responsibility through shared parenting and provide the support for a stable home environment. This is followed by 38 per cent who believe the benefits would be critical bonding time which would lead to improvements in family life.  Similar views were shared by the Baby Boomers and Generation X respondents.

Among those respondents who believe that paid paternity leave would not be of any meaningful benefit, 60 per cent argued that there are cultural issues where men are less willing to participate in parenting, and perhaps the time would be better utilised under the maternity leave arrangements, while 30 per cent believe that the benefits would be exploited, resulting in multiple children outside of a union. 

A total of 86 per cent of the respondents believe that unmarried men in common law unions should be allowed to benefit from paternity leave, while 84 per cent believe that the spouse should be declared beforehand.  However, when it comes to visiting partners, the majority, 58 per cent, do not believe they should benefit, while 42 per cent believe they should.  But more millennials, 43 per cent as against 31 per cent Baby Boomers and Generation X, believe that visiting partners should benefit from paternity leave.

Head of the Hugh Shearer Labour Studies Institute, Danny Roberts, said that “this preliminary study was more generational than gender focused to get a glimpse into an area of demographic behaviour that could provide better understanding of life course trajectories.”

He said the study provides the opportunity for policy shifts that address cultural issues and stereotypical mindsets across genders. He said that a large body of research showing that companies offering paternity leave are helping to break down traditional gender stereotypes, have benefitted families and contributed to a culture of inclusion.

According to Roberts, “even in the United States, where no paternity leave exists at the federal level, more companies are introducing paid paternity leave to encourage fathers to be more meaningfully involved in their child’s life.”

President of the Jamaica Civil Service Association, O’Neil Grant welcomed the study as a vindication of the JCSA’s push for the Government to consider legislation on paid paternity leave.  He said that this study now sets another basis on which the JCSA will be increasing its advocacy for paternity leave, initially with policy support within the public sector and then to get legislative support for a national paternity leave law.

“I am excited that the JCSA will be leading the way on this and I look forward to our meeting with the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service as we examine an Absence Management Policy for the Public Service which will include all types of leave and in particular paternity leave,” Grant concluded.

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