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Expectant mothers welcomed the Knesset's passing of a new law Monday extending maternity leave from 12 to 14 weeks, effective immediately, but say the three-and-a-half-months granted to mothers to stay at home with their newborn babies is still not enough.
"It's brilliant," commented Jerusalemite Lisa Davidson, 35, who immigrated from Scotland 13 years ago and is pregnant with her second child, due in August. "But 14 weeks is still not really enough. Putting a three-month-old into day-care, when the mother is most likely still nursing, is much too soon. Most work places do not have nursing facilities for the mothers to pump their milk, and the babies are not yet receiving solids."
During her last maternity leave, Davidson had just returned from a two-year stint in Britain where, she said, the maternity benefits are far more generous. According to a government Web site with information from the Department of Work and Pensions, women there receive 39 weeks maternity leave with up to 90 percent of their salary paid.
"It is surprising that the government here only grants three-and-a-half months maternity, when the country is so family orientated," said another former British resident, Lucy Cohen.
Expecting her first child in July, Cohen said there was not such a big difference between 12 and 14 weeks but that "every bit extra helps."
"For olim such as myself, the more time we have off, the better," continued Cohen, an interior designer based in Jerusalem. "We do not have the extended family around us to help out like many Israelis do and we don't understand the system as well."
Cohen said she would most likely take the extra two weeks of maternity leave before the baby is born to prepare herself for her baby's arrival, and then take unpaid leave when the three months covered by the government is up.
Another mother, who is expecting twins, agreed that while the extra time was nice, "it still was not enough."
The new law will grant an additional three weeks in multiple births, so those carrying twins can expect 17 weeks, up from 14.
"I know it usually takes new mothers at least six months to find their feet after a child is born, and with twins it probably takes much longer," she said, adding,
"It is still, after all, only four months, and I will most likely have to take much more unpaid leave before I feel ready to go back to work."
The mother, who preferred to remain nameless, said she had heard about the plans to pass such a law several months ago but could not believe that the change had passed and was to be effective immediately.
The bill was presented by MK Gideon Sa'ar (Likud), who said following the Knesset vote: "The new law is the result of a long and determined battle, and after 53 years the amount of maternity leave has finally been changed."