Paid leave for new fathers is a welcome step

Parental leave in UAE's private sector is a first in the region

Close up of newborn baby's face sleeping on father's shoulder at home. Getty Images
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The UAE on Sunday made a change in the country's labour laws and took a groundbreaking step: parental leave for fathers.

Within six months of a baby's birth, new mothers and now fathers in the private sector, are entitled to five days of paid leave.

This makes the UAE the first Arab country to grant parental leave to employees in the private sector. It is not the first step in a progressive direction.

For years, the burdens on working couples have been easing, and authorities have explored ways to better the lives of especially women. In 2018, another landmark ruling law ensured that women were paid a wage equal to their male colleagues.

That the UAE Government has now assessed needs of resident families and employees and taken this step demonstrates the country's commitment to family life and the progressive framework with which it views the issue of gender balance.

This new rule will be important for mothers and wives who will have the support they need at a time of their choosing, whether in the days right after the birth or in the months that follow.

Women who work in the private sector are already entitled to 45 days maternity leave at full pay, as long as they have been in their role for at least a year. The new law grants mothers an additional five days of paid leave.

Parental leave allows dads to be around, ease the burden of nursing, sleep-deprived mothers, and find time to absorb and reflect on their magnified, all-important new roles

As all employed parents know only too well, it is not easy to juggle office work with the demands of an infant. It will provide important relief to families that new fathers can now spend time – with no loss of pay – bonding with their sons and or daughters at a precious, early stage of their children’s lives.

This latest benefit for employees in the private sector will no doubt also have a positive effect on families and the nation's workforce.

An expansive step of this nature might even draw more talent to the private sector.

Not every resident or citizen can afford child care or nannies, and a move like this can only provide much-needed succour to parents in the exhausting early weeks of getting accustomed to a newborn in the house.

While it is often the case that a grandparent arrives to help the newly-expanded family, time off from work is a boon that allows for much to be ticked off the family's to-do list.

From vaccination trips and health check-ups at hospitals to other domestic chores, parental leave allows dads also to simply be around, to lend support, ease the burden of nursing, sleep-deprived mothers, and find time to absorb and reflect on their magnified, all-important new roles of having become fathers.