ISLAMABAD - The Senate Monday passed a bill that not only increases paid maternity leave of working mothers but also grants paid paternity leave, for the first time in the country, to fathers working for either private or public sector.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Quratulain Marri moved the bill on private members’ day that was passed by the house with majority of vote while the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government opposed it. The bill will now go to the National Assembly for another parliamentary scrutiny — a mandatory requirement to become a law.

The Maternity and Paternity Leave Bill says that employees of every establishment; any public or private organization, corporation, autonomous or semi-autonomous body, and any corporate body or enterprise; shall be provided six months paid maternity and three months paternity leave “as and when applied” by them.

On their demand, the employees shall also be provided with an additional three months optional unpaid maternity and one month paternity leave, separately from their leave account.

The government opposing the bill said that such lengthy maternity leave was not allowed in any part of the world and 90 days leave for working mothers is already permitted under the law.

Economic Affairs Minister Hammad Azhar said that such a lengthy paternity leave could not be granted while mothers are already allowed to avail 90 days maternity leave. The bill says that leave will be separated from annual leave account (earned leave) of employees and commence from the date as applied by the applicant and supported by a medical certificate. 

The bill restricts the employer not to terminate the services of an employee merely on seeking leave under the provisions of this bill. In case, the employee violates the discipline and commits

misconduct including extension of the leave without prior permission of the competent authority, then employer can take disciplinary action as prescribed under the law, reads the draft bill.

The statement of objects and reasons of the draft bill says that working women are a growing reality in Pakistan. “In order to facilitate women to fulfil the obligations of motherhood without having to compromise on their professional growth, Article 37 (e) of the Constitution of Pakistan provides the maternity benefits to women and entitles them to leave.”

On the other hand, the law does not mandate the provision of paternity leave for male employees, where the need for the institutionalization of such support structure is no different, says the statement. “Research suggests that enabling fathers to look after their new born children has positive knock-on effects. The early close relationship between father and child has long-term implications,” the statement adds.

Later, the house passed a resolution expressing “its deepest dismay and shock over the vicious and contemptuous act of burning and desecrating the Holy Quran in Norway. The resolution moved by Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Senator Mushtaq Ahmed further says that this has shocked the Muslims around the world.

“The Senate strongly condemns this act for being hateful, vicious, and contrary to the principles of international law laid down in several instruments,” reads the resolution.

It called upon the government to summon the ambassador of Norway in Islamabad and convey the sense of shock and anguish felt by the people of Pakistan against this act. It urged the government “to impress upon the Norwegian authorities for taking lawful action against those who desecrated the Holy Quran in Oslo on 19th November, 2019.”

Taking part in the debate on the deferred motion moved by Senator Mir Kabeer Ahmed Shahi on functioning of newly established National Coastal Development Authority, the lawmakers opposed the establishment of such authority by the centre. They said that the move was against the spirit of 18th Amendment as coastal areas were the property of provinces. They warned the government that they will approach the court against its decision.