Colombo, June 14 (BAN/ AD): UNICEF has removed its parent logo for Marking Father’s Day (Sunday, 16th June). The logo has been removed temporarily by, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). It has done this to highlight the need for parents in Sri Lanka to receive increased support through family friendly policies, enabling them to play their full role in the healthy growth and development of their children.
UNICEF in its release said in first 5 years parents are the most important people in a child’s life. In this period a child’s brain develops at a never-to-be-repeated speed of more than 1 million neural connections every second. Parents make sure that child consumes healthy nutritious food. Women’s careers also suffer. Having a child under age of five also reduces women’s labor force participation in Sri Lanka according to a 2017 World Bank report.
Sri Lanka has made strides, the implementation and availability of family friendly policies for parents in the workplace is inconsistent in both the public and private sectors.
UNICEF is globally calling for increased investment in four priority areas;
1. At least 6 months of paid parental leave that is available for both parents
In Sri Lanka, since 2018 every employed woman has been entitled to 84 paid working days of maternity leave and the government has now provided additional tax benefits to business to support maternity leave. However, there is very limited provisions for fathers to receive paternity leave, with government employees entitled to just 3 working days, and private sector paternity leave decided on a company by company basis.
2. Breastfeeding facilities and paid breastfeeding breaks for women returning to work
In Sri Lanka, mother in the public sector are entitled to 60 minutes of breastfeeding breaks for a child’s first 6 months. Within the private sector female employees are entitled to two, 30 – 60minute breastfeeding breaks per day for the child’s first year. This is an impressive commitment from the Government. However, there is no obligation for employers in Sri Lanka to provide breastfeeding facilities for parents onsite.
3. Affordable, accessible and quality childcare services
In Sri Lanka the ‘National Guidelines for Child Day Care Centres’ was introduced in 2017, with a ‘National Policy for Child Day Care Centres’ currently under development and designed to increase investment in this area. Further, the 2019 Budget sets out plans for concessionary loans for large business to provide childcare facilities. However, at present most working parents have no or limited access to quality childcare services, limiting their ability to enter or return to the workforce.
4. Child grants that support all families with children
Globally child grants, including cash transfers, are being implemented to support the most vulnerable and ensure they can access crucial services for children. Evidence shows that cash transfers play an important role in keeping families out of poverty, helping to reduce parental stress and enhance family wellbeing. In Sri Lanka, while most services for children are provided by the state free of charge, child grants should be explored as a way of addressing the economic and social disparities faced by families across the country.