Improvements to family leave proposed
A tripartite working group has unanimously agreed on new proposals regarding the allocation of parental leave expenditure. The proposals include a provision to increase the parental allowance of both mothers and fathers.
A tripartite working group aimed at improving the participation of women in the labour market has been involved in developing more equitable leave provisions for parents, including encouraging more fathers to take parental leave. In particular, the working group has been concerned with assessing the costs of family leave and has unanimously agreed on proposals on how these costs should be allocated.
In Finland, mothers are entitled to receive a maternity allowance for the first 105 days of leave. Fathers who take parental leave are entitled to a maximum of 18 weekdays, which can be taken in up to four segments during the mother’s maternity period or during her parental leave. For mothers, parental leave starts after maternity leave ends, and continues for a period of 158 weekdays. Parental leave can be taken by either the mother or father, but generally not by both at the same time. Parental allowances are calculated on the basis of the most recent earnings for which a final tax assessment is available, in the same way as sickness allowance is calculated. The average rate of the daily maternity allowance is 65% of wages, and the minimum amount is €15.20 per weekday.
Proposals put forward by the working group include recommendations to increase parental allowances paid to mothers and fathers. Key elements of the new proposals include the following measures:
- maternity allowance is to be increased to 90% of the mother’s income (the current level is 60%–70% of income) during the first 56 days of maternity leave. Parental allowance paid to fathers will be increased to 80% of the father’s income (current level is 60%–70% of income) for the first 50 days of paternity leave. Cutbacks concentrated on the highest daily allowances will be eased.
- compensation paid to employers for the cost of annual leave during family leave will be increased to cover statutory social insurance charges, in addition to salary.
- opportunities will be improved and made more flexible for fathers of small children to avail of paternity leave.
- a special campaign will be organised to encourage fathers to make greater use of paternity leave.
The reforms aim to balance out the costs arising from the traditionally high concentration of parental leave schemes, mainly in the female-dominated services sector. Thus, they will be particularly advantageous to employers in female-dominated sectors. The measures will lead to an increase in the annual costs of health insurance by about €60 million. Increases in expenditure will be largely financed by raising the statutory insurance charges of employees and employers. Both the employers and trade unions have welcomed the new proposals; in recent years, the social partners have actively promoted the greater use of parental leave schemes by fathers.
Pertti Jokivuori, Statistics Finland