Malaysia's extension of paternity leave to 7 days a welcome change for some

Mr Muhd Nazri Azmi said he felt that one week was too short and there should ideally be 14 days' paternity leave. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

IPOH (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia's Parliament has amended the Employment Act, which will extend the three-day paternity leave to seven days.

Working fathers are eligible for paternity leave for up to five children. They must also have worked at the company for at least 12 months to be entitled to such leave, under the amendment that was given the nod in March.

The private sector in Malaysia prior to this did not recognise paternity leave, with only civil servants given seven days' paternity leave.

While some fathers feel that seven days is too short, others believe the number of days would be sufficient to help their spouses settle down with a new addition to their families.

Marketing designer Muhammad Luqman Hakim Mohamed Radzi, who will soon have his second child, said seven days will be good enough to "settle matters related to a newborn".

"There are a number of things to be done, such as registering the baby's name and getting a birth certificate.

"Most infants also develop jaundice a few days after birth so the extra days of leave will be important for the men as they need to accompany their wife and newborn to the doctor," he said.

Technician Chin Kam Keong, 38, also felt that the seven-day leave was reasonable.

"Currently, my company only allows two days' paternity leave and it was quite chaotic for me. Hopefully, the government will enforce this as soon as possible so when I have a second child, I will have more time to care for my wife and baby and also to get things done," said Mr Chin, who welcomed a baby boy in March.

He also said the government should allow more tax relief for couples with babies.

"With items for babies and mothers getting more expensive, it will be really good if the government can give us more exemption or benefits to ease our burden," he added.

IT executive Nur Danial Ibrahim, who became a first-time father to a baby girl on April 14, said seven days' paternity leave for the private sector would be beneficial to new dads like him.

He said the arrival of a new family member had turned his wife's and his world around.

"The three-day paternity leave I had was just too short for me to be with my wife and baby. Everything is a new experience at that point.

"If fathers wanted to extend their paternity leave, it had to be taken from their annual leave, which should be kept for other situations.

"Aside from helping the wife around the house as she is in confinement, let's not forget dads are usually in charge of running errands such as registering the baby at the National Registration Department, which is not as easy as walking in like before.

"These things are time-consuming," said the 29-year-old from Kulai, Johor.

For father-of-two Muhd Nazri Azmi, 34, the increase from three to seven days was an improvement but he felt that one week was too short.

The social media editor, whose son was born eight months ago, said there should ideally be 14 days' paternity leave at least.

"Besides diaper duty, soothing and bathing the baby, mummies need a lot of post-partum attention and help too, especially those who suffer complications and injuries during delivery.

"As a father, I want to give my wife as much support, physically and mentally, as possible."

For example, he said this would include keeping the wife company when she breastfed the baby in the middle of the night so she did not feel like she was in it alone.

More paternity leave days would also give dads more time and space to respond to any health concerns that their newborn might have, Mr Muhd Nazri said.

The Malaysian Parliament also approved an amendment to increase maternity leave from 60 days to 98 days in the case of private sector employees and 90 days for civil servants, in keeping with International Labour Organisation recommendations.

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