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Article | Global News Briefs

Finland: Proposal would equalize parental leave for men and women

Future of Work|Health and Benefits|Integrated Wellbeing
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By Tirsa Valros | March 11, 2020

The proposed consolidated paid parental leave is intended to promote wellbeing and gender equality.

Employer Action Code: Monitor

The government is planning to consolidate the separate maternity, paternity and parental leave entitlements as a single paid parental leave (with pay replacement benefits provided by social security) for each parent, intended to promote wellbeing and gender equality. Draft legislation for the proposal is under development, aimed at enactment in 2021.

Key details

Expectant mothers would be entitled to one month of paid leave prior to the expected due date. After the child is born, each parent would be separately entitled to almost seven months of paid leave: 164 days based on a six-day benefit week. Up to 69 days could be transferred to the other partner. Under current provisions, maternity leave is 105 benefit days, paternity leave is 54 benefit days, and parental leave is 158 benefit days — fully sharable by parents as they see fit.

In effect, the proposed reforms would increase the maximum collective leave entitlement for the birth of a child from around 12.5 to 14 months, with the additional days of leave intended for use by fathers. The impact on new mothers would depend on the extent to which their patners utilized or transferred their leave entitlements. Single mothers would be eligible for the full leave entitlement on their own.

One element still to be determined is the amount of parental leave that a father would be allowed to take at the same time as the mother. According to the government agency Statistics Finland, currently the majority of fathers take fairly short paternity leaves of one to 18 days (the maximum duration of leave that can be taken simultaneously with the mother). Any of the remaining paternity entitlement, to be taken only when the mother is not at home, is taken up by less than half of fathers.

Employer implications

The proposed change is intended to mirror similar reforms in Sweden and Norway that put more onus on fathers to take parental leave for the birth of a child by carving out specific leave entitlements for new fathers. According to the government, the annual number of newborns fell by a fifth from 2010 to 2018, with only 47,577 births out of a population of 5.5 million in 2018. The government estimates that the annual cost of establishing the single parental leave entitlement will be around EUR 100 million, provided fathers’ take-up rate of parental leave increases in line with expectations.

As social security would continue to cover the cost of parental leave, an extension of fathers’ entitlement would not directly affect employers financially. However, should fathers make more use of their share of parental leave, employers would be affected by longer absence periods.

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