Midwives call for paternity leave to be extended to 10 days

Midwives from the Positive Birth Movement Malta are petitioning the government give fathers at least 10 days of paid paternity leave

Midwives from the Positive Birth Movement Malta (PBM) have petitioned the government to fulfil legal obligations to transpose into national law part of the European work-life balance directive, which gives fathers at least 10 days of paid paternity leave.

Despite MEPs in the European Parliament voting in favour of the directive back in 2019, fathers in Malta are still only entitled to one day of paid leave.

PBM is arguing that increased involvement by fathers and second partners benefits both parents and the child in the form of better health and well-being for all the family.  “Employers also benefit because fathers or second parents will be more motivated after taking their leave and feel more committed to their organisation. They can be more productive and better at prioritising their time,” senior midwife Pauline Borg said,

Borg, who filed the petition on behalf of the movement, said the movement felt compelled to file the petition when the subject kept coming up frequently at meetings organised by the movement.

“It is brought frequently up when we talk about post-partum, the fourth trimester and parenting. We felt we have a duty to pass on this message to parliament and to voice the message of the community in Malta,” Borg said.

Borg noted that in her experience as a parent and midwife, she believed that more than 10 days was required for fathers and second partners to support the overall parenting set-up.

Globally, South Korea offers the most paternity leave with 52 weeks, while Sweden offers the best paternity leave in Europe at 12 weeks and is known for its generous parental scheme too.

Nationalist MEP David Casa
Nationalist MEP David Casa

Nationalist MEP David Casa, who led negotiations on the European directive, said memories made with loved ones were important, and that the birth of a child was perhaps one of the most important for a couple as it opens a new chapter in their lives.  “I have always believed that we should make it as easy as possible for parents to be able to support each other and also their newly born child. That is what I wanted to achieve through the Work-Life Balance Directive,” he said.

Casa said through negotiations, MEPs were able to obtain benefits not only in paternity but also parental leave, creating a better sharing of caring responsibilities between men and women to enhance gender equality and assist women in reaching their full potential in the workplace. “This will reduce the gender employment, pay and pension gaps. This law is good for women, good for men, good for families, good for the economy and a crucial step towards a more social Europe.”

Casa reiterated that the directive was now EU law and that it must be introduced in every member state by no later than August next year. “I have joined calls for the transposition to happen earlier so that Maltese and Gozitan families can start taking full advantage of these new rights immediately.”

The MEP said that while the law ensures fathers and partners are given at least 10 days; the government was free to increase the minimum. “Other Member States already provide more than 10 days as paternity leave. I would argue that there is a very strong case for going beyond the minimum standard in Malta. What is sure is that this directive will increase citizens’ rights across the EU.”

Turning to the opposition from stakeholders and unions for fear that the financial burden would fall on the employer, Casa agreed that the government should finance the new leave.  “This is what a social government should do: ensure that the money generated is invested in the right manner.”

Casa said that in the medium to long-term, work-life balance measures will positively impact the economy and business. “They increase the possibility of women staying in work and reaching their full potential. And I would also argue that they result in a healthier and more productive workforce,” Casa said.

Top 10 countries for paternity leave

South Korea 52 weeks
Sweden 12 weeks
Slovenia 12 weeks
Iceland 12 weeks
Finland 11 weeks
Spain 8 weeks
Lithuania 4 weeks
Portugal 3 weeks
India 2+ weeks
France 2+ weeks