The Estonian government at its Wednesday meeting approved proposals for amendments to the law which would extend paternal benefits as well as make the country's parental leave and benefits system in general more flexible.
The amendments will extend paternity leave and grant fathers an additional 30-day individual right to parental benefits, make earning income while receiving parental benefits more flexible as well as enable the suspension and resumption of benefits within three years. In addition, the amendments will establish benefits for triplets and larger multiple births, spokespeople for the Ministry of Social Affairs said.
"With these amendments, we will introduce more flexibility and options to combine work and family life into the parental benefits system and will also promote the more equal distribution of the burden of care between parents," Minister for Social Protection Kaia Iva said in a press release. "The parental benefits system that exists in Estonia is undoubtedly one of the most generous in terms of length and the benefit rate, but it also brings with it long hiatuses in women's careers, nor does it allow parents to sufficiently combine work and leisure time sufficiently."
Fathers in Estonia already currently have the opportunity to go on parental leave and receive parental benefits, but despite generous benefits, the sahre of fathers among parental benefit recipients remains small — altogether 17,242 parents received parental benefits in 2016, just 9.3 percent of whom were fathers.
"The contributions of the father to raising a small child strengthen relations within the family and add a sense of security — that raising the child will not be left only to the mother," Iva said. "An additional 30-day parental benefit for fathers is an extension of paternity leave in order to encourage fathers to care for their children. Fathers will be free to choose whether to use the benefit or not. They can receive parental benefits at the same time as the mothers or alone."
During the payment of parental benefits, it will be possible for a parent to earn an income of up to half of the maximum rate of parental benefits, which in 2018 is estimated to be €1,544 per calendar month, without a decrease in benefits. Instead of the current half of benefits, the recipient will be ensured a benefit rate, which in 2018 will be €470 and is to enter into force on March 1, 2018.
The bill will allow for fathers to remain on paternal leave for 30 days instead of the current ten, as well as choose between taking paternity leave either at the same time as the mother's leave or separately. In addition, the father's right to additional parental benefits will not depend on the father's previous employment relationship or the contractual form of employment.
The payment of parental benefits can be stopped and resumed according to the parent's wishes at any time until the child reaches three years of age.
The proposal is to enter ino force on July 1, 2020.
Editor: Aili Vahtla