Paid maternity leave increased by five weeks
Working mothers and their newborn babies will be able to benefit from more time together after MPs passed legislation to extend paid maternity leave.
Women will have the chance to take 13 weeks’ paid leave after childbirth if they have worked at the company for 12 months continuously before the expected date of delivery.
Fathers were also recognised in the Employment (Maternity Leave Extension and Paternity Leave) Amendment Act 2019, as it provided for five days’ paternity leave.
Lovitta Foggo, the Minister of Labour, Community Affairs and Sport, told the House of Assembly on Friday: “The provision of maternity and paternity leave is a key element in enabling parents to forge bonds with their babies, and while maternity leave has become standard in most countries around the world, and indeed here in Bermuda, the provision of paternity leave globally has been neglected.
“Paternity leave helps foster better father-child relationships, and fathers need the chance to adjust to their new addition just as much as mothers.
“Studies have demonstrated increased benefits for children whose mothers have longer periods of maternity leave.
“Those benefits include better cognitive and academic development, as well as greater health benefits through longer breastfeeding periods.
“Additionally, maternal health is enhanced, with psychological distress significantly less likely for mothers who have more paid maternity leave.”
She explained that the existing allowance for maternity leave was eight weeks’ paid and four weeks’ unpaid leave.
Ms Foggo added that mothers who had not worked continuously for 12 months will be entitled to 13 weeks’ unpaid leave.
Employees applying for paternity leave will be expected to provide a medical certificate confirming the pregnancy.
Paternity leave can be used only once in a 12-month period, starting on the date of the child’s birth, and may be used at any time within the next 14 weeks.
Ms Foggo added: “This will provide fathers with the flexibility to use their leave when it is most needed, whether that is in the first few days following the birth, or in the first week of mother’s return to work.”
The five days will be paid if the father has worked at the company continuously for a year, and unpaid if not.
Ben Smith, the shadow minister of sport and social development, said the One Bermuda Alliance “wholeheartedly” supported the Bill.
He explained that studies showed paternity leave allowed fathers to connect with their children in their first weeks.
Mr Smith added: “They are seeing that fathers are actually tending to be more involved with the child’s life once they’ve started that bond right from the early stages.
“It also is helping to keep family units together.”
The legislation also provided for employees to take a week’s holiday after their first six months of work at a company.
Ms Foggo explained that workers are entitled at present to two weeks of annual paid leave after a full year of employment.
She added that holidays were important to reduce stress, and that the change “may prevent burnout and optimise a healthy work environment”.
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