Minister of Social Affairs and Health.
Draft government proposal for family leave reform completed.
Ministry of Economic Affairs and EmploymentMinistry of Education and CultureMinistry of Social Affairs and Health 16.2.2021 10.30PRESS RELEASE
The Government has completed and published its draft proposal for the family leave reform. The draft proposal will be circulated for comments between 19 February and 2 April 2021.
“The family leave reform is, first and foremost, about promoting the interests of the child. The new family leave model will treat every child equally, irrespective of the type of the family. It would encourage families to share childcare responsibilities more equally, thus giving both parents a good start for building a close relationship with their child,” says Minister of Social Affairs and Health Aino-Kaisa Pekonen.
The Government has made specifications to the model of daily allowance days, giving each parent a quota of 160 daily allowance days (There are six daily allowance days per week). In all, parental allowance would be paid for 12.8 months per child. Parents would be allowed to transfer up to 63 daily allowance days of their quota to the other parent. For the final stage of pregnancy, there would be a pregnancy allowance of 40 daily allowance days. This would mean that all in all, daily allowance days would amount to more than 14 months. Single parents would have the right to use the parental allowance quotas of both parents. Twins, triplets and other multiple-birth children would form the only exception to this model — the quota of daily allowance days for their parents would increase by 78 daily allowance days per second child and every child thereafter.
Under the new model of family leave, parents could use daily allowance days until the child reaches the age of two. Daily allowance days could be used in several periods. Only pregnancy allowance days would have to be used in a single continuous period and started 14–30 days before the estimated due date. All parents who have custody of their child would have an equal right to daily allowance regardless of whether they are biological or adoptive, custodial or non-custodial and regardless of the gender of the parent.
As a result of the reform, the total number of family leave days would increase slightly from the current level. Family leaves now consist of the mother’s maternal allowance period (105 working days or approximately 4.2 months) which starts before the estimated due date , the father’s paternal allowance period (54 working days or approximately 9 weeks) and the parental allowance period which may be taken by one of the parents or shared between the parents (158 working days or approximately 6.3 months).
Investment in parenthood and wellbeing of families and children
The aim of the reform is to encourage parents for a more balanced use of family leaves. This would mean above all that fathers would use their right to family leaves more than they do at present. If this objective was reached, the overall costs of family leaves to society would increase together with the total number of daily allowance days used by fathers.
“We will implement a family leave reform that supports the wellbeing of families. The reform will be an investment. It is about the income of families at an important stage of their lives, ” says Minister Pekonen.
Towards a more equal working life
The reform would implement both the objectives of the Government Programme and the changes resulting from the EU’s Work-life Balance Directive. These changes would aim to promote gender equality in working life and facilitate the reconciliation of work and family life.
“Gender equality in working life is influenced not only by laws and regulations but also by attitudes. We want to encourage fathers to take more family leave than they do at present. A more equal sharing of family leaves between both parents would benefit many families and the whole society as equality progresses,” says Minister of Employment Tuula Haatainen.
The key amendments to the Employment Contracts Act are related, for example, to the names of family leaves and periods in which parental leave could be taken. As a new element, the reform would introduce the right to carers’ leave, which is based on the Work-life Balance Directive. It is intended for situations where, for example, a relative needs help suddenly. Each worker would have the right to take unpaid carers’ leave for up to five days per year.
Reform would be taken into account in early childhood education and care
In future, the right to early childhood education and care would start at the beginning of the calendar month when the child turns nine months. The right to the same early childhood education and care place would be maintained when the child stays at home with the parent during the parental leave and does not attend early childhood education and care for that reason. The requirement for this would be that the period of absence lasts without interruption for a maximum of 13 weeks and the early childhood education and care place has been informed of the period of absence beforehand. By amending the Act on Client Fees in Early Childhood Education and Care, it would be possible to make sure that no client fees would be charged for this period.
“In future, children would maintain the right to same early childhood education and care place that they attended before, even if their parents decided to use their family leaves more flexibly. Continuous and safe relationships are important preconditions for the development and wellbeing of children, and this will also be ensured as part of the family leave reform,” says Minister of Education Jussi Saramo.
Reform prepared through cooperation
A working group led by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health prepared the family leave reform, and a working group led by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment was responsible for the preparations related to the Employment Contracts Act. The working group of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health included representatives not only from the relevant ministries and agencies but also from labour market organisations. The working group carried out its work within the framework of the Government Programme. It was not, however, able to reach full consensus on all issues.