At Last – Excellent (Baby) Family Leave Reform!

It has taken the “Female Five” leaders in the present government, just a few weeks to reform the current Maternity Leave system here in Finland so it starts to resemble the excellent system you find in Sweden. 

An important part of this reform is to allow men to take a more equal responsibility for baby care with paid leave (a parental allowance), allowing mum to get back into the job market much faster.

The result of this reform will certainly improve the status of women in the job market, and should make bringing up a family easier as the work will be more evenly distributed. Finland needs more women in the labour market and this is best handled by reducing the burden currently borne by women to raise the young family.

The current system “more or less forces” women to stay at home with a parental allowance and to take most of the responsibility for looking after the babies for a year and longer. We speak about “more of less forces” because only 5% of the husbands take time off. 

The result of the current system for women is discriminatory:

  • The glass ceiling is lowered, 
  • It increases the pay gap between men and women, 
  • Their final pensions are reduced, and 
  • They have to perform a lot of hard physical work.

Finland has one of Europe’s lowest birth rates and this is probably explained by the current maternity leave system here. Having children is mentally and physically demanding, and the heavy burden borne by women probably reduces women’s desire to bear more than one or two children.  

According to the Minister of Social Affairs and Health, Ms. Pekonen, the reform guarantees the child a place in the centre of the family and promotes well-being and equality. The reform is a government investment in the future of children and the well-being of families. 

The reform will hopefully result in a change in attitude, as it will make parental equality and the life of diverse families easier. The reform will support all types of families and provide the child with equal leave, regardless of family form. Sharing parenthood in everyday life becomes easier and the relationship between both parents and the child is strengthened from early childhood.

The period of entitlement for parental allowances will increase from the current 11.5 months to just over 14 months. Both parents would receive the same quota, which is 164 daily allowances, or about 6.6 months, and a parent can transfer up to 69 days a quota to the other parent.

The days refered to here are work days including Saturdays – a queer Finnish rule!

A pregnant mother will receive a daily allowance of about one month before the start of parental allowance – they call this surprisingly a “Pregnancy Allowance”. 

A single parent would have access to a daily allowance for both parents.

The wording of the former legislation is being brought into the modern worlds, the use of language is gender neutral and suitable for all families. 

The cost of this reform is around €100 million and the reform is being finalised to enter into force in 2021. 

Photo: Finnish Council of State: © Lauri Heikkinen https://www.flickr.com/photos/finnishgovernment/49483742377/

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