Senators support extension of maternity leave – and renew call for paternity leave

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Opposition United Progressive Party Senator Shawn Nicholas. Government Senator Aziza Lake. Independent Senator Bakesha Francis-James
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By Theresa Goodwin

[email protected]The Big Stories

While giving the nod to a bill that extends maternity leave from 12 to 14 weeks, members of the Upper House of Parliament want consideration to be given to implementing paternity leave for fathers too.

Opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) Senator Shawn Nicholas made the recommendation yesterday, suggesting that men should also benefit from paid leave to allow them to bond with their newborns.

“We need to start sounding the drum for our men because child-rearing is not just for mothers. It takes both the mother and the father and I think we should start seriously thinking about this,” Nicholas said.

She said key players would have to band together to craft such legislation.

Nicholas was supported by government Senator Aziza Lake who stated that men should be able to support their partners and be more involved in taking care of a new baby.

“If we remember a mother is feeding a child every two hours and a lot of mothers say they don’t sleep for a couple of months, the fathers are needed at home and that is something we have to think about,” Lake said.

Both senators were speaking in the Upper House on Monday while giving their support to the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Code Amendment Bill which will pave the way for the extension of the maternity period.

This was among several pieces of legislation approved by the House of Representatives on Monday, and the bill was supported by senators on both sides of the political divide.

Senator Nicholas described it as a very progressive move on the part of the government. She, however, expressed concerns about how those changes will be implemented at the level of the Antigua and Barbuda Social Security Scheme.

Senator Lake also stood in support of the bill and suggested that many mothers are of the view that 14 weeks is still not enough.

Meanwhile, independent Senator Bakesha Francis-James called for special consideration for mothers who work with international companies that are not based in Antigua and Barbuda.

“The country that I work for in the other territory, mothers get an entire year for maternity leave while we are only getting the 12 weeks. I would like to see some provision in the bill, if possible, so that all of us can benefit,” Francis-James said.

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