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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Bar Assn. ‘in essence’ backs paternity leave in private sector

Rep. Domingo Torres García, chairman of the House Labor Affairs Committee

By The Star Staff

A measure that seeks to create paternity leave was supported “in essence” by the Puerto Rico Bar Association but with a series of recommendations to create a balance between the needs of working mothers and fathers.

Senate Bill 155 was evaluated Wednesday at a House Labor Affairs Committee hearing chaired by Rep. Domingo Torres García with the purpose of evaluating other protections in parental leave contained in the legislative proposal.

The Senate bill would amend other laws, including the Law for the Protection of Working Mothers (Act 3-1942), to extend the period of maternity leave and recognize surrogate maternity leave; add a new article to the Minimum Wage, Vacation and Sick Leave Law (Law 180-1998) to create paternity leave in the private sector; and amend the Law for the Administration and Transformation of Human Resources (Law 8-2017) to extend the period of paternity leave in the public sector.

“What the bill is looking for is that equalization in the home, that the man can be brought into the picture, that these social prejudices that women are the only ones in charge of their children are broken,” said Félix Bartolomei, a member of the Bar Association’s Labor Law Commission, in a paper presented to the Senate committee.

“It is time to do justice,” he added. “Although this seems like discrimination against men, it is an indirect discrimination against women due to the issue of social charges where women are the ones in charge of raising children.”

The measure establishes that paternity leave will have the same extension as paid maternity leave, which is four weeks before the birth and an increase of eight weeks thereafter. The employee may choose to take a week before the delivery and extend the paternity leave up to 11 weeks afterwards.

Likewise, every employee who adopts a minor of preschool age will be entitled to the same paternity leave benefits enjoyed by a family in which the mother has given birth. However, given the economic reality that has affected small businesses, the Bar Association suggested that for employers with 50 or fewer employees, parental leave be maintained at eight weeks.

Bartolomei also pointed out that the bill does not contain provisions on who will qualify for the leave, so he pointed out that it be granted to “responsible parents who are alongside the mother and the newborn.”

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