The majority of Israeli men would be willing to take paternity leave, with a large percentage ready to stay home for an extended period in order to care for their newborn infant, a study published Wednesday by the Women’s Budget Forum, a non-profit umbrella organization uniting some 20 women’s and human rights groups, has revealed.

Released ahead of Israel’s annual Family Day on Friday, the survey, which used a sample of 600 men between the ages of 20-50, found that 70 percent of those questioned would be willing to take paternity leave and 20% desired to take leave from work for an extended period of up to three months in order to care for their baby.

Of those questioned, however, 40% said the main barrier stopping them from staying home with their children was a fear of being fired from their jobs. Only 15.7% of those questioned said that staying home with a baby was the role of a mother only.

“If we want to advance the status of women in general and improve their standing in the work place in particular than we must also encourage this notion of sharing roles in the household and in childcare too,” commented Valeria Seigelshifer, a legal expert at the Women’s Budget Forum, adding that there seemed to be an overall desire among Israeli men to take time off to be with their children.

“In recent years, many European countries have begun to implement paternity leave laws that run in addition to the time allocated to mothers,” continued Seigelshifer.

“Usually during this period, the fathers are entitled to benefits for staying home with the child, in some places it’s 100% of their salary.”

The forum, which also carried out research into the maternity leave issue in general in Israel, is currently in the process of drafting legislation that will allow fathers to take time off to be with their babies, in addition to the 14 weeks already mandated for women. Seigelshifer said the first step was to push for a law that will allow fathers three weeks off work to be used within the first year of the child’s life.

Currently, the Paternity Leave Law, passed in 2007, allows fathers to take up to six weeks of leave – six weeks after the child’s birth. If a father decides to take the leave, the mother must cut short her maternity leave.

According to National Insurance Institute statistics only a very small percentage of men have taken advantage of the Paternity Leave Law since it was passed four years ago.

In addition to its survey on men’s attitudes to paternity leave, the forum has also researched the impact of childbirth on women in the workplace. Its findings show that a quarter of women aged 20-45 who worked before giving birth gave up their jobs afterwards, compared to only 1% of men.

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