The Legislative Yuan yesterday passed an amendment to the Act of Gender Equality in Employment (性別工作平等法) that would give fathers-to-be two more days of paid leave to accompany their spouse to prenatal checkups, but civic groups said that the amendment would not offer adequate support for couples who want to raise their children together.
The current regulations stipulate that employers must grant female employees five days of paid leave for pregnancy checkups. Employers should also grant male employees five days of paid paternity leave to care for their spouse and children during and after childbirth.
The amendment, which is to be implemented at a date designated by the Executive Yuan, would require employers to give female employees seven days of paid leave for pregnancy checkups, while granting male employees seven days of paid leave to accompany their spouse to pregnancy checkups, and to care for their spouse and children during and after childbirth.
However, the bill fell short of the expectations of women’s rights advocates, as they had demanded that fathers be granted seven days paid leave for prenatal checkups and another seven days paid paternity leave.
Before the bill was passed yesterday, the Awakening Foundation, the Birth Reform Alliance, the Breastfeeding Association of Taiwan and the Not So Tiny Alliance jointly launched a signature drive for people to support their version of the bill.
As of midday yesterday, more than 1,200 people had signed, they said, adding that group representatives had attended a meeting with legislative caucus whips on Monday.
“To our dismay, Democratic Progressive Party legislators, who are the majority at the legislature, went ahead and passed their own version of the bill without further negotiations with other caucuses,” the foundation said. “Their version would only extend the paid leave for fathers to seven days. Employers would only pay for five days of the leave, while the government would make up the rest.”
Seven days paid leave would put fathers in a bind, rather than helping them, the foundation said.
“If they want to be at every prenatal checkup with their spouse, they would have to go to work once the child is born. If they want to take care of their spouse and children after childbirth, they cannot be at every checkup. However, the law gives pregnant women seven days paid leave for pregnancy checkups and eight weeks of maternity leave,” it said. “The shows that the act has essentially reaffirmed the notion that pregnancy and childbirth are a woman’s duty and a man’s limited participation in these matters is normal. Husbands seeking a full participation before, during and after childbirth must then do so at their own expense or use parental leave.”
In addition to prenatal checkups, couples need to make a lot of preparations before childbirth, from taking prenatal classes, consulting doctors and childcare specialists to redecorating their home, the Birth Reform Alliance said in a statement.
“If the Ministry of Labor thinks seven days of paid leave for fathers is enough and they can decide for themselves if they want to spend more time with their wives before or after childbirth, then should the ministry not extend the paid leave to parental leave as well?” the alliance said.
Numerous studies have shown that more spousal participation during pregnancy helps lower the risk of women experiencing postpartum depression, it said, adding that risks of experiencing postpartum depression are two to four times higher for those who do not receive adequate spousal support.
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