WSP Middle East’s Project Director, Tom Hoban has featured in a recent Gulf News article discussing the benefits of paternity leave in the initial days of parenthood.
Our HR Director and Director – Shared Services, Caroline Parsons also offered comment for the article on the role WSP is playing to advocate flexible parental leave policies in our industry and region.
Here’s an excerpt from the full article, titled ‘How UAE’s paternity leave is keeping families together’:
How are UAE firms helping their employees?
A number of firms, including Gulf News, have been actively helping families bond in those initial days of parenthood. Omar Channawi, CEO at Procter & Gamble Middle East, East and West Africa and General Export Markets, tells Gulf News in an interview that paternity leave is just as important as maternity leave and must be recognised as such by firms. “We believe that caring for your home and family has no gender and recognise the positive impact this has on families and on the overall environment of gender equality.
Another company, WSP, also offers paid parental leave. Caroline Parsons, HR Director & Director – Shared Services, explains that running a family is a job for both parents. “Traditional ideas surrounding gender roles place a disproportionate amount of pressure on women to take time off and take care of their children after giving birth. This removes the opportunity for fathers to help with caregiving and hinders the adjustment phase that all new families experience.
“When it comes to paternity cover, the policy we have had in place since 2014 has offered new fathers the UAE’s now mandatory five days of leave, and the flexibility of this certainly remains very unique in comparison to many other organisations and geographies across the Middle East,” she explains.
Why is it so important for a dad to spend time with their newborn?
There’s no denying that taking care of a child - especially in the first few days post delivery - is tough work. A couple must navigate the new truth of having a whole person who cannot talk but has all the needs of a living, breathing human being, complete dependency, and a terrible, awful sleep cycle.
Add to this the roller coaster of emotions that are wending down the new mum’s body whereby she may be dealing with the baby blues or even post-partum depression; the fact that there may not be a familial support system nearby; and anxiety caused by a lack of sleep and the joy - and so fear - of losing a newborn, and it’s just too much to take on alone.
Tom Hoban, of WSP, recalls: “For the first few days - my wife had a C-section so her mobility was impaired so I was doing a lot of the heavy lifting and taking care of the feeding of him and things like that. Definitely feel like it helped us establish the bond and some routine as well when I returned to work after the paternity leave. We have our own little time together and even today, I feed him in the morning and give him a bath at night - that’s our little routine. So it helped us establish that bond.”
The 2019 UNICEF report says: “Giving parents the opportunity to bond with their infants at this critical phase in a child’s life ensures essential preventive care, and healthy development in childhood and across the lifespan.” It adds that fathers who take paternity leave are more involved in early childcare, share household work more equally, and can support mothers’ breastfeeding – all of which help to reduce post-partum depression.”
Geeta Ramakrishnan, Wellness and Ontological Coach, adds: “Parenting is a joint responsibility, and the awareness is prevalent in this generation, much more than the last. The fact in itself entails a need for paternity leave alongside maternity leave. Once the little one comes into your world, the more hands, the better. And bonding with the new baby is a not-to-be-missed emotional experience for both parents."
Hoban explains that the pandemic makes paternity leave all that more important. “With the pandemic it’s more difficult for our parents to travel and for anyone to travel to give that support, so I thought it was even more important given the situation that I took the paternity leave.”
And it’s proved to be a boon; he says he will “100 per cent” use the option to take paternity leave if the need arises.
To access the full article, click here.