Slovakia: Incentives for men to take time off work for family life
Young men in Slovakia are increasingly breaking with tradition to take time off to care for their children. There is a small but steady rise in the numbers of men benefiting from two forms of parental entitlement: parental allowance and maternity benefit (open to fathers under certain conditions).
In Slovakia, mothers and women have traditionally been responsible for childcare, and men’s involvement in household chores and family life is a quite recent development. This process is supported by overall cultural and value changes in Slovakian society, but also by the greater involvement of women in the labour market and by the implementation of policies for the financial support of families. These include legislative measures to increase their benefits and thus also to increase the number of men involved in childcare – which are sparking a positive response among men.
This article looks at the increase in popularity of two allowances:
- the non-contributory parental allowance;
- the contributory maternity benefit.
This state non-contributory lump-sum benefit was brought in by Act No. 571/2009 Coll. on parental allowance. It is an allowance of the universal system financed by the state budget (taxes). A working person (male or female) can take parental leave and get the allowance instead of pay. At the same time, the employer is obliged to keep the job position open for that worker.
Parental leave, provided for under the Labour Code, is given to a parent on a full-time basis and can also be used in blocks of at least one month (until the child reaches eight years of age). A person on parental leave has their contributions for social insurance and old-age pension paid by the State. The period of parental leave and the pay for it can be shared by the parents.
The benefit is conditional on the parent being responsible for the proper childcare of at least one child up to three years of age (or up to six, in the case of a child with long-term poor health). The amount of the allowance has been increasing gradually; from €136 per month in 2008 to €203.20 in 2014, which is the current amount.
Data from the Central Office of Labour, Social Affairs and Family show that men’s interest in parental leave and their uptake of the parental allowance has been increasing.
Although the amount of parental allowance as a proportion of wages has not increased, the number of men receiving it has. In 2009, the allowance was received by 3,971 men, and in 2016 it was received by 5,894 men, an increase by 48%. Although, from an overall perspective, the proportion of men on parental leave is still small, the trend is obvious: a steady increase in the proportion of men on parental leave – from 2.23 % in 2009 to 3.14% in 2016 (Table 1). % allowance from wage
|Amount of monthly parental allowance (€)||159||164||190||195||200||203||203||203|
|Average monthly gross wage (€)||745||769||786||805||824||858||883||912|
|% allowance from wage||21.4||21.3||24.2||24.2||24.3||23.7||23.0||22.3|
|Number of people claiming allowance||178,036||183,501||185,393||188,004||188,701||188,296||187,228||187,695|
|Number of men receiving allowance||3,971||4,525||4,803||5,019||5,210||5,550||5,710||5,894|
|Share of men receiving allowance (%)||2.23||2.47||2.59||2.67||2.76||2.95||3.05||3.14|
Source: Central Office of Labour, Social Affairs and Family, Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic
Maternity benefit is a contributory benefit under Act No. 461/2003 Coll. on social insurance. In Slovakia, maternity leave for pregnancy and childcare has lasted more than six months for several decades.
A mother, who has contributed for at least 270 days to the health insurance system in the two years preceding the birth, is entitled to receive maternity benefit. In the case of self-employed and voluntary insured people, the payment of insurance contributions is also required.
With the implementation of a new law in 2003, fathers can also now take care of their baby and receive maternity benefit when the mother’s benefit expires. Thus, the overall full-time care of a small child by its parents can last for more than one year (56 weeks in practice). However, such an option has not been availed of very much. Instead, one of the parents, after having received all of the maternity benefit, then usually continues to look after the child and claim parental allowance.
However, from 2011, the conditions for receiving maternity benefit have been changing with the intention of giving better financial help to young parents. The length of entitlement to maternity benefit has increased – from 28 to 34 weeks when one child is born to a family with two parents, and 37 weeks in case of a single mothe.
The amount of the benefit has also increased. It is calculated on the basis of the mother’s previous gross wage. It was set at a maximum of 1.5 times the average national gross wage but, from January, the maximum is now double the average national gross wage.
The original rate was 55 % of the assessment base, increasing to:
- 60% from 1 January 2011;
- 65% from 1 January 2012;
- 70% from 1 January 2016;
- 75% from 1 July 2017.
Under such favourable conditions, it is starting to be worthwhile for some families to give up the man’s income for the period during which he could receive maternity benefit.
The law says that the father of a child, in agreement with the child’s mother, is entitled to take parental leave no earlier than six weeks after the day of delivery (and provided that the mother does not receive maternity benefit or parental allowance at the same time), and to receive maternity benefit until the child reaches the age of three. Parents may consecutively (but not simultaneously) receive maternity benefit – the father for six weeks less than the mother. The prerequisite for this is that the parents have made social insurance contributions for at least 270 days during the previous two years.
|Number of people claiming maternity benefit (women and men)||59,548||58,223||57,597||59,383||63,937|
|Number of men receiving maternity benefit||222||314||717||1,731||3,079|
|Share of men receiving maternity benefit (%)||0.37||0.46||0.89||2.69||4.43|
|Women’s average time in weeks in receipt of maternity benefit||34||34||34||34||34|
|Men’s average time in weeks in receipt of maternity benefit||28||28||28||28||28|
|Sum of maternity benefit; % of assessment base||65.0||65.0||65.0||65.0||70.0|
Source: Social Insurance Agency; Act No. 461/2003 Coll. on social insurance
The data show that the number of men who have received maternity benefit has increased significantly, especially since 2014, when there were 717 claimants, to 1,731 cases in 2015 and to 3,079 cases in 2016 (Table 2). It can be assumed that this interest will continue to grow. However, it should be said that the media campaigns in 2014 and in 2016, which supported the political measures to increase the amount of the allowance, were also responsible for men’s increasing interest in taking care of their small children. According to available statistics, maternity benefit has been become attractive for more men as well.