“While mothers have a natural emotional bond with their children, fathers have to build it, through communication and caring,” explains Nino Amonashvili, a Tbilisi-based sociologist whose research focuses specifically on the role fathers play in children’s development. She maintains that parental leave unites the family as the presence of the father provides a psychological and physical support to the mother after the birth.
But there are economic factors too.
“It has an impact on women’s employment. Some employers prefer to hire a man rather than a woman since she is more likely to take time off from work to look after children. If fathers would start applying for leave more often, this will have a positive effect on the employment inequality between men and women,” notes Amonashvili.
Gender stereotypes remain deeply entrenched and Georgians still describe men as helpers and women as caregivers. The socio-economic situation however is pushing the boundaries and clearly cut roles are blurring. Research conducted in Georgia by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in 2018 showed that support for paid paternity leave is growing, albeit slowly, as interviewees believe there is great value in both parents’ involvement in parental responsibilities. The change is mainly driven by an economic necessity, sociologists maintain, and differences run along generational lines with the under-30s urban population more likely to support greater male involvement in childcare.
In Georgia, the legislation and the terms differ between the public and the private sector. A civil servant can take up to 550 days of leave, of which 90 days are paid, but the law on public service states that the employee can apply for it only if the mother is not on leave at the same time. The law specifically uses the expressions “child caring” which applies to fathers or whoever takes care of the child, including for example, if the child is adopted.
The labor code for the private sector specifically refers to “maternity,” “child care,” and “maternity or child case leave of absence,” with no clear indication whether or not a father can apply for parental leave, which is set at a maximum of 730 days over two years. Rights’ groups maintain that the lack of clarity in the law makes it easier for private employers to not grant paternity leave.
“The conditions are better in the public sector, they should be the same,” notes Nutsa Kashakashvili, a lawyer at the Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center’s (EMC). “In the private sector, employees received a one-time payment for up to 1,000 laris ($371) [paid by the government from the state budget], while the public sector, which is obliged to grant it, the parent receives the full salary with the regular benefits.” Loopholes in the Georgian legislation give private employers the leverage to avoid granting parental leave to fathers.
In 2014 Shota Kiparoidze, 30, took three months off from work to spend time with his newborn Ana Mari. He received his salary in full from his then employer, a large French hypermarket chain - which was an exception.
“This was due to the good-will of my employer. The human resources department offered me the possibility to take paternity leave, I didn’t even know about it,” remembers Kiparoidze, who did not apply for parental leave when his second child was born three years ago as his new employer is not as open to the practice. Taking holidays, he says, is even a struggle.