Talking About Parental Leave – Prof. Adelaiye


 

Parental leave is a mandatory employee benefit which provides paid or unpaid period off work/duties, to offer appropriate care for a baby, or make arrangements for the baby's welfare. Generally, the term "parental leave" includes maternity, paternity and adoption leave. These basic benefits are stipulated by law or statutes.

Variation in international law

In most countries, paid parental leave (typical maternity leave) is available for those who have worked for their current employer for a certain period of time. National laws vary widely according to the politics of each jurisdiction.

Only four countries (Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland and USA) have no national law mandating paid time off for new parents.  In the USA, the Family and Medical Practice 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 e.g the State of California mandates paid family leave.

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 large majority of countries provide more than 10 paid weeks maternity leave. Only four provide none as stated above. Central European countries are the most dedicated countries in the world regarding parental leave. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, it is standard that mothers stay at home for 3 years with every child. For the whole period, mothers are supported by the government financially.

Also, in Slovakia, the standard duration of parental leave is 3 years; for a handicapped child, it is up to 6 years. The state pays support of 256 Euros per month for the child's first 2 years. After this period, it is 146.22 Euros per month. A similar model is also used in Austria where mothers can choose between 1 and 3 years.

Africa

In Africa, which is the focus of AFRIBABY, offer of Parental Leave remains poor and discouraging. The average duration is approximately 14 weeks. And worse still, in Nigeria, it is only 12 weeks!

With the outcry of more women in government as well as AFRIBABY in the forefront, I strongly feel they should also cry out to make Parental Leave palpably different and higher from what it is presently. I am certain that it is feasible to increase it to 6 months or near so at least, as it has succeeded in most other countries of the world.

All first ladies should support AFRIBABY and other well-meaning Nigerians to make this a reality.

Prof. Alexander Adelaiye teaches Paediatrics at the University of Abuja, Gwagwalada, FCT.

 


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