The Grenoble wing has sparked discourse in France by taking the statutory 27 days' leave for childcare
Timoci Nagusa paternity leave opens up debate
Is paternity leave a taboo for male team sport professionals? Timoci ‘Jim’ Nagusa reckons so.
The former Fiji wing, 34, decided to take time off this season to help care for his newborn and 13-month-old and he has been stunned by the reaction in France. As he explains to Rugby World: “I think as a professional, it’s more like you don’t want to upset your employer. Like, you don’t want to sit down and worry about your contract. You don’t really want to be doing things that don’t benefit the club.
“As a player you’re scared to take paternity leave because you’re worried about your contract, you worry about your work.”
Nagusa says he sent his club a letter with a photo of the scan, detailing his wife’s due day, three days before that date. In it, he adds, he detailed his intentions to stay at home and support his partner, in accordance with French law as he understands it. They called him, Nagusa says, to ask him to come back and play, but he told them he could not leave everything up to his wife.
Nagusa is not the first professional to discuss paternity leave. In August, Joe Marler joked on talkSPORT that he had taken “delayed paternity” leave and missed some of pre-season, following the birth of his fourth child before last season’s Premiership semi-final. Around the time of the birth the club actually arranged for the prop to make it to their semi against Bristol via helicopter, so he could spend as much time with the family as possible.
Asked if there should be less stigma about taking leave, Nagusa says: “Yes, 100%. This is something I’m shedding light on right now, in France, but I didn’t expect it to be like this, at this moment of time.
“When I first took my leave, I thought it was just a bit of leave. But here in France, it is also so political in so many ways. And so many mothers have really supported me, and so many rugby players have supported me. And there are people who don’t really like it but they are entitled to their opinion.
“The reaction has been really mind-blowing to me. Even reading some of the political viewpoints, I’m quite surprised!”
Rugby World approached several Premiership and Premier 15s sides to ask about their leave policies.
While both Worcester sides “follow statutory legislation for both maternity and paternity”, Northampton Saints say that with their contracted male players it comes down to a discussion with the individual in question, and what their personal circumstances or wishes are in a “pretty flexible arrangement”.
Newcastle Falcons tell us that they “pride ourselves on creating a family-friendly environment, and work closely with our players and their families to achieve the best possible outcome”, but could share no further details.
Back at Harlequins, with their women’s team they have developed a player-specific policy to aid with post-partum care and return to play, as detailed by The Telegraph in September.
In New Zealand they have developed the ‘Black Ferns professional performance programme‘, in which it is stated: “The Parental Policy in the MOU introduces an entitlement for players returning to the programme from maternity leave, to have a support person of their choice to travel and stay with them to look after the infant during squad assembly.
“The costs of travel and accommodation for the support person will be met by the Player Payment Pool, with the cost capped at $15,000 a year for each player until their child turns one. The policy provides opportunities for players due to go on maternity leave, to move into other safe employment within the rugby network until the player goes on maternity leave.”
The RFU recently told the BBC that they recognised the need to update and formalise a post-maternity policy specifically for the England Women’s 15s, and that such a process was underway – with the union in dialogue with the NZRU and others.
As it stands, there are currently no birth mothers contracted full-time with England, though it is understood that any contracted players are entitled to ‘enhanced maternity payment’ (17 weeks full play plus extended statutory maternity pay).
Back in France, Nagusa has yet to play for Grenoble. He has heard the criticism that some may want to exploit the law for even more time off in a profession with relatively short working hours. To this he replies with disbelief and counters with his own experiences of leaving the house at 7am to attend training, not getting home until three in the afternoon. Is it fair, he posits, to leave all of the jobs around the house and with the children to his wife?
He adds: “I told them (the club), no, I can’t be here and my wife is struggling at home and then my mind is always at home. And then when I go home, I have sleepless nights and I come to training and I’m not 100%. It’s better to stay home to look after my family.”
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