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In Finland dads and mums will have the same parental leave

To encourage fathers to spend more time with their children, Finland’s new government has recently announced plans to give all parents the same amount of parental leave.

The new government has announced that paid allowance will increase to a combined time of 14 months. This will mean a total of 164 days parental leave per parent.

At present Sweden has the most generous parental leave allowance. They offer 240 days leave per parent after the birth of the baby.

The new government in Finland has stated that they want to promote wellbeing and gender equality.

Aino-Kaisa Pekonen, Health and Social Affairs minister, stated that Finland had already begun a radical reform of family benefits. The aim of the reform was to strengthen the family relationship from the very beginning.

Right now, the current system in Finland gives maternity leave of 4.2 months to mothers and 2.2 months leave to fathers. This can be taken any time up till the child turns two years old. Additionally, a further six months parental leave can be shared between the parents.

Research has shown that on average only 25% of fathers take what they are allowed. The new plan will address the time taken as parental leave instead of maternity leave.

Both parents would be entitled to receive 6.6 months leave (164 days), with pregnant women receiving an additional months’ allowance.

In the case of a child having two parents 69 days of each quota can be transferred to the other parent. In the case of single parents, the parent will be entitled to use both allowances.

Sanna Marin, Finnish Prime Minister stated that the country still had some way to go in order to achieve gender equality. She commented that there were too few fathers spending time with babies and young children.

It seems that the rest of Europe is heading in the same direction. Anne Lise Ellingsaeter, professor at the University of Oslo told the BBC that up till now Nordic countries had led the way for allowing fathers an entitlement which was not transferrable to mothers.

Also heading in this direction is the EU with a directive in 2019 which gives member states three years to provide both parents with at least 4 months leave of which two months cannot be transferred.

There is already a gender-neutral system in place in Portugal, with 120 days at full pay, followed by an optional 30 days at 80% of the salary.

Professor Ellingsaeter admitted that allowing fathers to have increased parental rights had not worked out very successfully in the Nordic Countries.

It was Norway who first introduced (in 1993) non-transferrable leave to fathers. Sweden followed suit, with Denmark introducing a father quota in 1998. Denmark later abolished this and has not re-introduced it yet.

Under Danish laws fathers get 2 weeks leave after the birth of a child, and the mother and father can share a further 32 weeks between them.

Since December Finland has had a government made up of a five-party coalition. Each of the five parties is led by a woman. Ms Marin, aged 34, stated that in Finnish terms having women in power is really ‘no big deal.’

The Finnish government estimates that the cost of the new rulings would amount to £84M.

Last year in a UNICEF report Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Portugal and Estonia were praised for offering the best family-friendly policies.

Of the lowest 31 ‘rich countries’ to offer family-friendly policies the UK, Ireland, Greece Switzerland and Cyprus topped the list.

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