On April 1, changes to the national parental benefit and parental leave systems in Estonia will enter into effect that according to the Social Insurance Board (SKA) will offer both current and future parents more flexibility and convenience.
"When shaping family policy, we have kept in mind that families are unique, and each family has their own wants and needs," Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo (Reform) said according to a SKA press release. "Taking into account parents' wishes, the parental benefit system will be made even more flexible. Now fathers who want to take on a bigger role in raising their child will also have the opportunity to stay home [on leave] with their child significantly earlier, and mothers can return to work earlier than before if they want."
The goal of the changes being made to the current leave and benefit systems is also to grant families more flexibility in caring for their child at home, working, and more equally divide the burden of care between parents.
According to the minister, families' economic security and welfare foster secure, happy and long-lasting relationships, the birth of children and the reconciling of work and family life.
Kati Kümnik, head of the Benefits Department at SKA, highlighted SKA's online self-service portal, where parents can see all the parental benefits and leave to which they are entitled in one place.
"In addition to the fact that everything benefits- and leave-related will be visible to the parent in the self-service portal, we will also contact the new parent ourselves and let them know what benefits they are entitled to receive," Kümnik said.
Parents will be able to use SKA's self-service portal to plan their benefits and leave beginning next Friday, when the changes take effect. This fall, a new calculator will also be introduced in the portal in which parents can calculate their parental benefits even before their child is born.
"It is also a big change from a technical perspective," Kümnik noted. "We thank you in advance for parents' patience in case of any delays in using the self-service portal due to the changes."
On average, 13,000-14,000 children are born in Estonia every year. The state pays monthly parental benefits to around 18,500 mothers and fathers, including some 1,500 new recipients each month.
In 2018, the Riigikogu voted to reorganize Estonia's current systems of parental benefits and parental leaves, the changes to which have been implemented in stages. Next Friday's changes represent the final phase of the overhaul to be implemented.
Changes in force beginning April 1
- Mothers will be able to use maternity leave and a monthly maternity benefit in lieu of the current pregnancy and maternity leave and maternity benefit.
- Parental benefits can be scheduled on a daily basis through the child's third birthday. This will allow parents to spread parental benefit payments over a longer period.
- The current option of earning income while receiving parental benefits will remain, allowing the parent on leave to work at the volume of their choice while raising their child.
- While parents were previously only able to decide on the 71st day following the child's birth which parent would begin receiving parental benefits, fathers will now have the option of shared parental benefits starting when the child is one month old.
- Parents can now receive parental benefits and be on parental leave together for a period of up to 60 days.
- Going forward, parents will receive child leave on an individual basis per child: ten days of child leave per parent per child through age 14, or a total of 20 days per child per family.
- Parental leave will be applied for and paid through SKA, which will also inform the employer of the employee's leave request, reducing employers' burden in managing employees' leave.
Editor: Aili Vahtla