Minister of Social Protection Kaia Iva has submitted a proposal to the Cabinet to merge maternity, childbirth, paternity and childcare leave as well as the associated allowances into a single leave and allowance.
The single leave proposed by the minister would reserve two months of leave exclusively for the mother and one month of leave exclusively for the father. The rest of the time could be used by both parents on an alternate basis or simultaneously until the child reaches three years of age.
According to the minister, the current system should be made more flexible to better take into account national goals and the work and life arrangements of parents.
The Cabinet discussed the proposals at its meeting on Thursday. The discussion is to be resumed in March and a corresponding bill drafted by fall, spokespeople for the Ministry of Social Affairs said.
The aim is to create a single leave and a single allowance for a parent raising a child under three years of age based primarily on the existing parental leave and allowance systems. As part of the plan, the present 140-day maternity leave, 10-day paternity leave and leave for caring for a child up to three years of age as well as the 140-day maternity allowance, 10-day paternity allowance and 435-day parental allowance would be merged together.
Under this arrangement, the period including at least one month prior to the birth of the child and one month following the birth would be reserved for the mother.
For the father, the system would set aside an exclusive right to one month of parental leave. The personal entitlement of the father would be added to the present duration of parental leave, meaning that parental allowance would be paid for 575 days or until the child reaches 19 months of age. If the father relinquishes the right to parental leave, the same entitlements cannot be used by the other parent and will be canceled.
Up to 605 days of parental allowance for parents on leave
Parental allowance would be paid for a maximum of 605 days, 30-70 days of which would be paid preceding the birth to employed mothers, 30 days of which would be paid to all mothers following the birth, and 30 days of which would be paid to fathers. The portion that can be divided between parents would consist of 475-515 days.
It would be possible to use the parental benefit in a flexible manner during the entire period that one is entitled to it, e.g. to discontinue parental leave and then use it one or several days at a time if necessary. The right to parental benefits would be preserved when the parent is simultaneously earning income from other sources as well.
The period during which parental leave entitlements can be used would end and unused entitlements scrapped when the child reaches three years of age.
Iva has also proposed enabling both parents to take up to 30 days of paid childcare leave annually per child up to eight years of age. The allowance paid to the parent during the additional child leave period would equal 50 percent of the parent's income taxed with social tax during the previous calendar year.
According to the minister, the changes would support the participation of parents in the labor market and favor the division of parental tasks between parents.
Editor: Aili Vahtla