Q. My wife and I had a baby last year in January and we were also blessed with another one in November the same year. My line manager granted me paternity leave only in January and not in November, when the second baby was born.
If I had been a mother, I am sure I would have been granted maternity leave for the second baby but this was not the case. Do you think my employer was fair to me to deny me the opportunity to offer a father’s support?
While paternity leave is provided for in the employment legislation, organisations do not have uniform policies concerning how it is administered. Some organisations may grant leave for each paternity incident while others have a limit on the number of times the leave can be granted within a given period, say a year.
What reason was given by your line manager for not granting you the paternity leave? Did you consult with your HR colleagues concerning the matter?
HR policies cover workplace situations that are common, leaving exceptional circumstances to the discretion of management as it would be inconceivable to anticipate every situation in a policy document.
In the event your organisation’s HR policy confines granting paternity leave to once a year, it might be explained by the somewhat limited probability of the occurrence of a paternity situation such as you had last year.
However, HR policy cannot regulate paternity; it can only regulate the orientation of an organisation towards it.
Although it is almost a year since your situation arose and it might now be deemed a non issue to pursue redress, seek audience and share your concern with your HR colleagues. Even though it may be reasonable to expect paternity leave to be triggered by paternity in the same manner maternity leave is initiated by maternity, the practical considerations for both cases can be quite different.
Nevertheless, goad your HR colleagues to reflect some more about how they will handle your kind of situation in the future. There should be room to consider the merits of your exceptional plea regardless of whether or not it is envisaged in the HR policy.
Did you consider taking part of your annual leave entitlement when your request for paternity leave was declined? Remember paternity existed before either HR policies or employment legislation and consider that while twelve days of paternity leave are important, there are many years ahead during which your paternal support will be required of you as a father.