Paternity leave is generally referred to as the time a father takes off from active work at the birth or adoption of a child.
The time off is rarely paid for by companies. A few outfits around the globe however offer new fathers paid time off, ranging from a few days to a few weeks.
In 2004, California became the first state in the United State of America to offer paid family leave at the onset of the birth of a child. This automatically means that if you work in that state, you may be able to take up to six weeks at partial pay to care for your newborn. Washington and New Jersey have equally passed paid family leave laws, and other states have considered similar bills. Most fathers in many nations take vacation time or sick days when their children are born, and a growing number of new dads are taking unpaid family leave from their jobs to spend more time with their newborns. Many feel that when such laws are in place, fathers would not think of cunningly circumventing the system in order to spend time with their new child.
Ironically a few African nations have in addition to the globally accepted maternity leave equally have made laws backing paternity leave also in an attempt to further strengthen the family bonds. Many of such countries do not however call it paternity leave. In nations such as Cameroon, Chad, Cote d 'Ivoire, Djibouti, Gabon and Seychelles, 'up to 10 days paid leave for family events concerning workers' home' is annually granted and utilised mostly by new fathers. In South Africa it is called '3 days paid family responsibility leave.' In Togo it is known as 'up to ten days of paid leave for "family events directly related to home." In Tanzania however 5 days fully paid paternity leave is given. This is also true in a country like Algeria where 3 days fully paid leave for new fathers is given. There is no law backing paternity leave in Nigeria but many companies especially private ones allow either paid or unpaid 'casual leave' for their staff to take care of personal or family issues.
A cross section of Nigerian men spoken to interestingly are indifferent about the issue citing cultural and religious factors as reasons for its 'unacceptability' as far as the country is concerned. A young father, Suleiman Yerima opines that any man who pushes for such a policy implementation is playing to the gallery. He hinges his opinion on the fact that a man must always be seen to be active in the provision of the necessities of life for his family at all times rather than recline on his armchair at home.
'A man should always be out there making money for the family. This is even more essential when a new baby is born. Why would a man want to stay at home for leave just because he is a new father? Even when my child was born, there were times when I didn't really go to work and friends and colleagues from the office came to visit me. The office understood this and did not bother me on some days when I didn't come or came late. And of course my religion does not permit laziness and I want to believe it is the same with any other religion. At the time my child was born, I was able to combine my work with taking care of mother and child.'
Celestine Okiro simply laughs it off when questioned. 'Is that a joke? Why will a man want to be given leave let alone being paid for it just because his wife has given birth? In most cases it is the mother that even does the entire job so what will the man use the time to do. Instead of making money for the home he wants to stay at home doing what?
Wikipedia online says even the battle for paid maternity leave is yet to be won as a few countries are yet to roll out enabling laws. 'Only four countries have no national law mandating paid time off for new parents: Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and the United States. In the U.S., the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) mandates up to 12 weeks of (potentially unpaid) job-protected leave, including parental leave, for many American workers. Sub national laws also vary; for example the U.S. state of California does mandate paid family leave, including parental leave for same-sex partners. Legal requirements for parental leave benefits do not always reflect actual practice. In some countries with relatively weak requirements, individual employers choose to provide benefits beyond those required by law. In some countries, laws requiring parental leave benefits are widely ignored in practice.'
A few others however believe that if given time off at work, a father can assist the wife in household chores while the baby is taken care off. Others say sleepless nights occasioned by the birth of the child emotionally and physically drains the man hence the need to have a bit of time off to recuperate. But the support base for this school of thought appears to be wobbly at best in a clime where thoughts for economic survival reign supreme for most household heads.
'My thoughts most of the time after my wife gave birth to our child was how to make more money for the extra mouth. How would I have done this if I sat at home? A man cannot afford to be lazy. A woman needs to recuperate after giving birth. A man on the other hand needs to brainstorm on how to make the next pay check or look for other means of income,' says William Iburu, a staff in a private firm in Utako, Abuja.
Kazeem Musa toes similar lines of thought when he vehemently opposes any policy introduction to that effect. 'It can never work in a country like Nigeria where the survival of the family lies squarely on the shoulders of the man who has to go out everyday to earn a little money. Moreover, men believe that resting of whatever sort is meant for women who are weaker. Any sign of weakness on the part of the man is frowned upon in the African context.'