A doubling of the number of days new fathers get for paternity leave means that Seychelles now takes the top place in the Indian Ocean region in that category, employment officials said.
The Employment Department of the Ministry of Employment, Immigration and Civil Status increased the length of paid paternity leave from five to ten days, effective since May 15. Paternity leave is the time a father takes off work at the birth or immediately following childbirth.
The revised law places Seychelles second behind Kenya in terms of paid paternity leave. Madagascar, Burundi, Mauritania and Togo make provision for ten paid days for family events. A father in the Central African Republic can get up to 15 days for special circumstances.
The director general of labour relation in the Employment Department, Steve Monnaie, said that with the creation of a ministry for the family, the government found that there is a need for more programmes for families.
"The increase in paternity leave will encourage fathers to play their role in the lives of their newborn children and take their responsibility. We want fathers to help mothers," said Monnaie.
The revision of paternity leave coincides with that of maternity leave. As of May 15 this year, working mothers who have given birth are entitled to 16 weeks maternity leave, instead of 14 weeks.
The chairperson of the National Family Council, Robert Moumou, said that an increase from five to ten days is reasonable.
"It is a good initiative and recognition that both parents are important in the life of the child. The bonding period is equally important for both parents and we appreciate that the government has seen this importance," said Moumou.
He added that though ten days is not enough, there are economic repercussions that can hinder the working place and the economy of Seychelles, which has a population of just over 95,000 people.
To be eligible for paternity leave, the pregnancy must result in a live birth and the father must acknowledge the child as his by putting his name on the birth certificate. At the time of applying for paternity leave, the father must have been in employment in his current workplace for the past 12 months.
"The law states that the father needs to inform his employer in writing eight weeks before the baby is due. He will then need to submit documents that will prove that his claim is credible," said Monnaie.
The letter written to the employer must be endorsed by the mother, where she provides her full name, national identification number and address. Once the mother is issued with a certificate of confinement, a copy has to be attached to the father's application for leave.
The last step is to provide the employer with the birth certificate once the baby is born. Exceptions can be made if the child is born before or after the expected due date if the newborn is hospitalised or in the event that the mother passes away and the baby survives.
"In the unfortunate case that the mother dies, the father can acquire the maternity leave or whatever is left of it," said Riordan Plows, a senior employment officer at the Employment Department.
Paternity leave must be taken within a timeframe of four months after birth.