Committee proposes increasing paternity leave by one week
A tripartite working group considering reforms to the Finnish parental leave system suggested in November 2001 that paternity leave should be lengthened from 18 to 25 days. The proposal has aroused mixed reactions among the social partners.
A tripartite working group set up by the government to examine the reconciliation of work and family life, including reforms of parental leave, suggested in November 2001 that statutory paternity leave be lengthened from 18 to 25 days. At present, a father has the right to take paternity leave during the maternity or parental leave period. The maternity leave period is at present 105 days and the parental leave period, when either the mother or the father can stay at home, is 158 days (TN9801201S). It is also proposed that parents should be able to take their parental leave on a part-time basis. Both parents could thus be in part-time work and on partial parental leave at the same time. It is planned that the proposals should come into force from the beginning of 2003.
The purpose of the proposed reforms is to provide men, especially, with better opportunities to look after their new-born children. From the perspective of families, the obstacles to making use of present family leave rights are identified as economic reasons, the challenges of working life and increased cost awareness at the workplace.
The Finnish Confederation of Salaried Employees (Toimihenkilökeskusjärjestö, STTK) and the Employers' Confederation of Service Industries (Palvelutyönantajat, PT) - which represents the service sector, where female employees are in the majority - have a differing view on the proposal. According to these organisations, the working group's proposal does not give men sufficient support to use family leave. In their view, 12 days of the parental leave could be allotted specifically to the father, which would entitle the father to take an extra 12 days off after the parental leave period, is he has already taken parental leave of at least 12 days. In this way, the leave would be made more attractive to fathers, the purpose being to reduce the costs arising from childcare in the female-dominated sectors of employment.
The Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (Suomen Ammattiliittojen Keskusjärjestö, SAK) believes that the possibility to take the parental leave part time is a new way of reconciling the needs of work and family life. The Confederation of Unions for Academic Professionals (Akateemisten Toimihenkilöiden Keskusjärjestö, AKAVA) sees the lengthening of paternity leave as an improvement, though it would have preferred an even greater increase.
The task of the working group is to be completed by the end of November 2001, when the content of its report will be finalised.