A new policy had been implemented by the CIMB Bank Bhd. (CIMB) whereby the Bank introduced paid paternity leave for a month to its employees. It was done with the intention to enable parents to spend more time with their family members and share the responsibility of welcoming a new birth. IKEA also introduced one month of paid paternity leave across its stores to enable new fathers to care for a baby.
This issue of granting paternity leave for a period of time has become a trend all over the world including Malaysia. For instance, employees of AXA Group around the world will receive a minimum of 4 weeks paid paternity since 1st January 2017 and the implementation includes all the employees in Malaysia under the AXA Affin General Insurance (AAGI).
Earlier this year, the issue of paternity leave has been the talk of the town. It started when the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) proposed that all employees should be provided with 1 month paid paternity leave. Some argued it was good that employees were granted such leave. It allows fathers to take care of their partners and new born during confinement and reduces the instances of postpartum depression.
On the other hand, there are also concerns on such paid leave which might leave a financial impact on the employers. The Malaysian Federation of Employers (MEF) objected the MTUC’s proposal on the ground that it affects operational costs and company productivity. Besides that, the MEF’s Executive Director stated that if the paid paternity leave is enforced, Malaysia would not be a lucrative choice for investors and it would burden the employers (Astro Awani, 26th March 2017).
In Malaysia, it is clear that female employees are provided with maternity leave under the written law. However, it is not the same for fathers of the new born babies. While there is no statutory paternity leave, in practice most companies allow fathers to take between one and 14 days off or even 1 month. However, there are also companies which allow new fathers to utilise their annual leave or unpaid leave. The mentioned period is not fixed and uncertain as it depends on the policies of the company.
Since there is no law on paternity leave, the employers are free and have the option to provide such leave or not to do so. In deciding whether to have this particular leave or not within the company, employers need to consider several other factors before making a final decision. It is noticeable that many companies are moving towards the implementation of paternity leave in order to show appreciation towards its employees by ensuring they have the support to achieve work-life balance. The other side of the coin is that it can cause other problems such as having shortage of workers when an employee is on paternity leave for a period of time and this will cause disruption on the operational side of the company.
It is undeniable that this polemic issue is getting its desired attention, yet it appears so far that there isn’t any nearest future plans to amend the existing written laws so that this issue of paternity leave will be included.
The right period of paternity leave will be questionable as long as the government is not planning to include or consider this leave to be part of the legislation.