TALLINN - The bill of amendments to the parental leave and benefits system passed the first reading in the Estonian parliament on Wednesday.
The law amendments will extend paternity leave and give fathers an additional 30 day individual right to parental benefits, make earning an income at the same time as receiving parental benefits more flexible and enable the suspension and resumption of receiving benefits within three years. In addition, the amendments will establish benefits for triplets and even higher multiple births, spokespeople for the Ministry of Social Affairs said.
"The existing system of parental leaves and benefits is generous, but has not given women enough flexible ways for personal fulfillment alongside a small child or given fathers good opportunities to participate in raising the child," Minister of Social Protection Kaia Iva said in a press release. "Experience of other countries shows that families are less unafraid to have more children if mothers feel that the other parent is also assuming a bigger role in raising the children," she said.
Fathers already now have the opportunity to go on parental leave and receive parental benefits, but despite generous benefits, the share of fathers among the recipients of parental benefits is still small. Altogether 17,242 parents received benefits in 2016, among whom 9.3 percent were fathers.
During the payment of parental benefits, it will be possible to earn an income of up to half of the maximum rate of parental benefits, which in 2018 is an estimated 1,544 euros per calendar month without a decrease in the benefits. Instead of the current half of the benefits, the recipient will be ensured a benefit rate, which in 2018 will be 470 euros and is to enter into force on March 1, 2018.
The bill allows fathers to stay on paternal leave for 30 days instead of the current 10 and use their right to do so simultaneously with the mother or at a different time. In addition, the father's right to additional parental benefits would not depend on the father's previous employment relationship or the contractual form of employment. The proposal is to enter into force on July 1, 2020.
The payment of parental benefits can be stopped and continued according to the wish of the person until the child reaches three years of age. The proposal is to enter into force on July 1, 2020.
The amendments are expected to enter into force in stages until the final implementation in 2020. The ministry in the next few months will continue developing other amendments concerning pregnancy leave, maternity leave and the relevant benefits.
The aim of the government's 2016-2019 activity program is to create a flexible parental leave and benefits system, which offers options for parents, supports the parents' participation in the labor market, sharing the raising of children between parents and also has a long-term positive impact on the birth rate.