Paternity and adoptive parental leave for civil servants- a welcomed surprise

A family spending time
A family spending time (Photo credit: August de Richelieu)

The Jamaican Government is putting measures in place to change family leave for public sector workers. In a press conference on Tuesday 12 July, Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke announced that the government will increase maternity leave and introduce paternity leave. Measures will also be put in place for adoptive parents to receive leave.

The GOJ intends to update the Public Sector Staff Orders of 2004 to increase maternity leave from 40 days to three calendar months and to introduce paternity leave, for the first time in the public service, for fathers of newborns. The specific time and terms are to be finalized. Family leave for adoptive parents, who are bringing a new child into the home, will also be instituted.

Meanwhile, Clarke noted that members of the public service will be informed about the timing of these changes, which are expected to affect thousands of Jamaicans, by September 30.  Clarke stated that details on paternity and adopted family leave are still being worked out. Also, the cost of the new leave entitlements will be made public at a later date. Clarke explained that the government’s action came out of the compensation restructuring exercise which had reviewed the terms and conditions of service with the objective of updating the civil service.

Reports are that the discussions on the details of the compensation restructuring with public sector unions and bargaining groups are going well.

In May, the government announced a review of compensation to the lowest-paid public sector workers earning a maximum of $600,000 by increasing their pay.

Public discussions on the introduction of the Paternity Leave Act began at least four years ago and, according to the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) the concept of paternity leave was accepted by technocrats and scholars. The report quoted Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Culture, Gender Entertainment and Sport Denzil Thorpe as saying that the Act would align with the recommendations of the National Policy for Gender Equality. Then Director for the Institute of Gender and Development Studies at the University of the West Indies, Professor Opal Palmer Adisa, told JIS that paternity leave would assist in shifting the paradigm that it’s a mother’s job to raise the children to that of both parents.



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