The five-day paternity leave provided for in Brazil is a “limited” rule and the review of this period provided for in the Constitution 35 years ago is “more urgent than ever”, in the opinion of the director of the International Labor Organization (ILO) office. for Brazil, Vinicius Pinheiro.
“Compared to international standards, it is a very limited rule. Maternity and paternity leave rules today place care tasks mainly on women, creating an imbalance in relation to the distribution of care tasks”, said Pinheiro, in an interview with BBC News Brasil.
The paternity leave rule was the subject of a decision by the Federal Supreme Court (STF) this Thursday (14). The ministers set a deadline for parliamentarians to analyze this topic.
A direct action of unconstitutionality filed by the National Confederation of Health Workers (CNTS) argued that Congress had failed to enact a law on paternity leave, although the Constitution provides for five days of leave until a specific law.
The STF plenary decided to give the National Congress a period of 18 months to issue a law on the matter.
The way it works today in Brazil, in addition to the general period of five days for paternity leave, companies affiliated with the Citizen Company Program grant another 15 days, totaling 20 days of paternity leave – in exchange, they have tax benefits granted by the IRS.
For Vinicius Pinheiro, the changes that have occurred in society in the last 35 years, “with the need for greater participation of women in the job market, pressurize the need to regulate this issue with even greater urgency.”
“I see this as more urgent than ever and as more relevant than it was in the 1988 Constitution,” he said.
Leader of the ILO in Brazil, he says that the difference in participation of women (55%) and men (75%, according to IBGE) in the Brazilian labor market is, to a large extent, “explained by the work overload related to the economy of care”.
Paternity leave around the world: average of nine days
The average duration of paternity leave in the world is nine days, according to an ILO survey. At the same time, leave for mothers averages 18 weeks.
The data, released in 2022, shows that 115 out of 185 countries offer the right to paternity leave. There are four out of every 10 men of reproductive age living in countries with this benefit. And only one in 10 men live in countries with at least 10 days leave.
Pinheiro says that there is an “increasing trend” in the length of leave for fathers around the world. From 2011 to 2021, 16 countries with paternity leave increased the duration, according to the same survey.
Chile, Zambia, Nicaragua, East Timor and Vietnam are among the countries that appear in the survey alongside Brazil, providing 5 days of paternity leave.
Pinheiro also highlights that, even in countries with the expected benefit, some are left out, such as self-employed workers. The ILO also points out that a growing number of countries and companies are adopting measures to promote the rights of LGBTIQ+ people.
New paternity leave rule?
Pinheiro mentions the 20-day period, currently in force in Brazil for companies that have joined the Citizen Company Program, as a basis for possible discussion about a new license period.
He suggests “starting with 20 days and with a view to gradually increasing.”
“You can’t arrive overnight and expect everyone to be ready. It would be a gradual insertion, based on what already exists.”
The challenge, he says, is to find a balanced way of financing the benefit, between what would be the company’s obligation and financing from the National Social Security Institute (INSS), so that paternity leave is paid, as it works today.
When the value is lower than the salary, this “discourages” the use of leave, says Pinheiro.
“This system has to be designed in a sustainable way – without putting too much burden on companies, so that they can absorb this type of benefit and understand that it is a stimulus to productivity.”
“If you have a well-structured family, workers with a good personal and professional balance, this can also have a positive impact on increasing productivity, but this is not automatic.”
When defending the discussion about increasing leave, Pinheiro highlights that increasing the period “helps to better balance family and professional responsibilities, not overloading women so much and causing a division of labor”.
“The change has to start at home – if you want to increase women’s participation in the job market, it is important for men to be present in domestic activities,” he said.