Does Zimbabwe need paternal leave?

THE world over, paternity leave is becoming more and more common. Fathers around the world are increasingly enjoying this benefit with over 92 countries having embraced paid paternal leave.

guest column: Edwick Mabika

Back home in Zimbabwe the reality of having such a benefit is far from practice. Zimbabwean law does not recognise paternal leave for fathers who have welcomed a child.

Looking at Africa as a whole, there is an increasing trend of legislating paternal leave for fathers that would have had a new child.

A survey of African countries shows that a number of countries such as Cameroon, Chad, Togo and Ivory Coast have adopted paternal leave and fathers enjoy 10 days leave that start from the birth of their child.

Other countries such as DRC, Algeria and Egypt provide three days of paternity leave per annum. In South Africa, the Labour Laws Amendment Bill which has already been passed by the National Assembly is set to introduce a 10-day leave which will start from the day the child is born and the employer will be not be under any legal obligation to provide any remuneration during this leave.

One’s earnings would come from the Unemployment Insurance Fund under Department of Labour thus if he was contributing towards it.

Globally in countries such as Sweden, couples are entitled to 480 days of parental leave with 90 days reserved for the father. However, parents receive only 80% of their normal pay during their time off. In Germany working parents have equal entitlements to paid parental leave of up to 14 months.

But one would argue that giving male employees time off for paternal leave is not good for business productivity. This is true to a certain extent, but the benefits of offering it currently outweigh its disadvantages.

Fathers are able to have an active role in the life of their children, studies by Reeves and Krause, (2017) found out that children whose fathers are more involved in their early years perform better than those with fathers who are less involved on a variety of measures, including improved language skills, cognitive test scores, and social development.
Therefore, offering paternal leave is beneficial for the family institution.

Research has shown that the first days of a child are the most important days. Chatterji & Markowitz (2012) studies provide that maternal leave has an impact of improving mental health outcomes around birth.

Avendano etal (2015) continued with the study and found out that maternal leave policies not only benefit mother and child during period of birth, but influence long term psychological health such as health ageing in women, hence having direct implications on the costs of medical care, social participation and productivity of older women.

Therefore, a cost benefit analysis by the government is important to really understand the value of paternal leave in our modern society. During this period, female employees need their male counterparts for support mostly after birth.

It can also be a way of addressing gender equality in workplaces, women have successfully advocated for their rights and equality in workplace, adopting paternal leave will be an important milestone in pursuant of gender equality. It will be a welcome move in leveling the playing field in the workplace for male and female employees.

Therefore, is Zimbabwean corporate world ready for this type of leave and for how long should this benefit be enjoyed?

The ultimate decision remains with the Zimbabwean business tripartite partners to advocate for and make this a reality. Research has done its role and provided the benefits of paternal leave.