Great Britain

Finland to give fathers same parental leave as mothers

Finnish parents will both receive the same amount of fully paid parental leave, a move by the mostly female-led government to encourage fathers to take time off work to spend with their children.

Paternity leave would be extended to nearly seven months, on par with maternity leave, giving each parents 164 days of paid leave.

Social affairs minister Aino-Kaisa Pekonen said in a statement: “The reform will be a major change in attitudes, as it will improve equality between parents and make the lives of diverse families easier.

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“The reform will support all kinds of families and ensure equal leaves for children regardless of the form of the family.”

Currently, Finnish mothers receive 4.2 months of maternity leave while fathers get 2.2 months until the child turns two.

In comparison, statutory maternity leave in the UK is 52 weeks, while fathers are only allowed up to two weeks of paternity leave, which cannot begin before the birth of their baby and must end within 56 days of the birth.

Under the Finnish government’s reform, which would come into force in 2021 at at the earliest, parents don’t have to take their leaves simultaneously to allow families to maintain income levels for 14 months, up from the current 11.5 months.

Parents would also be allowed to transfer 69 days from their own allowance to the other parent, allowing for more flexibility.

In addition, women would be entitled to a month of paid pregnancy leave before their due date under a separate pregnancy allowance. Single parents would be able to use the paid leave allowance quota for both parents.

Ms Pekonen said the “radical reform” is also aimed at boosting the Nordic country’s declining birth rate. Between 2010 and 2018, the number of births in Finland fell by 25 percent.

Finland’s new centre-left government, led by the world’s youngest prime minister Sanna Marin, has prioritised gender equality and the parental leave reform is a keystone measure to achieving their goal.

Announcement of the changes has been welcomed by parents on social media, with many men and women praising the country for “leading the way for gender equality”.

One person said: “It took a women-led government to implement paternity leaves as long as maternity leaves in Finland.”

 Human rights activist Kifefe Kizza-Besigye, from Uganda, said: “Great policy! Promoting good childcare and development; strong, stable and happy families; gender equality and equity and the foundations of strong and successful communities.

“In Uganda, maternity leave is just 60 days and, where paternity leave exists, it’s four days!”