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Finland unveils 'use it or lose it' family leave model

The government said the reform aims to encourage a more balanced use of family leaves.

Vauvan jalat äidin kämmenellä.
All parents who have custody of their child would have an equal right to family allowance regardless of whether they are biological or adoptive, custodial or non-custodial and regardless of the gender of the parent. Image: Nella Nuora / Yle
Yle News

The reform would increase income-related family leave to about 14 months from just under 13 months.

"Time spent together in early childhood is important for both parents," Minister of Social Affairs and Health Aino-Kaisa Pekonen said at a press conference on Tuesday when unveiling the government’s new family leave model.

The plan allots parents 12.8 months of income-related parental allowance per child. Parents would each get 160 allowance days, with parents able to shift a maximum of two months of their quota to the other parent. Any other unused days would be lost as they are not transferable.

Ministry spokesperson Tuulia Nieminen told Yle News that the system recognises challenges some parents who are, for example, entrepreneurs may face in taking time off work. To that end, the plan allows parents to use their days on a flexible basis, such as taking one or two days per week in several periods until the child turns two.

Minna Helle of tech industry lobby Technology Industries of Finland on Tuesday tweeted it was "a dream to think families would divide leave evenly if parents are able to transfer months to each other."

Minister: No immediate employment impact

The new system would make public daycare available for babies starting at nine months.

"Gender equality in working life is influenced not only by laws and regulations but also by attitudes. We want to encourage fathers to take more family leave than they do at present," Minister of Employment Tuula Haatainen said in a statement.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Pekonen said the overhaul would increase public spending while not having any immediate impact on employment.

The family leave proposal does not include plans to cut the homecare allowance--a Kela benefit families can seek after the income-related family leave period ends.

For the final stage of pregnancy, there would be a pregnancy allowance of 40 days, resulting in total leave of about 14 months.

The government’s draft proposal will now be circulated for comments before being sent to Parliament in the autumn. Finland expects the new model to take effect in 2022.

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