Fathers can take equal paternity leave starting next year

There are two major advantages to the new paternity leave outline - it will allow for meaningful bonding between father and baby and will work to reduce the gender wage gap.

 Parents with their child (Illustrative) (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Parents with their child (Illustrative)
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Fathers in Israel will soon be able to take paternity leave with full pay without it negatively impacting the mother’s leave, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman and Labor Party leader Merav Michaeli announced on Wednesday afternoon in a joint statement.

While details of the new paternity plan are being finalized, the outline will be fully summarized when the budget is submitted to the government on June 16. It is expected to be implemented at the start of next year.

As part of the expected law, the father will have the ability to take paid paternity leave starting 15 weeks after the baby’s birth, the same amount of maternity leave given to most women, although some are granted 26 weeks.

There are 180,000 births recorded in Israel annually, and of that number, 130,000 mothers are entitled to paid maternity leave.

Allowing fathers to take paternity leave immediately after the mother’s will allow them to take an equal role in parenting, form a close bond with the newly born child, and take some of the pressure off the mother.

 Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman and Transport Minister Merav Michaeli give a joint press conference, May 11, 2022. (credit: GOVERNMENT PRESS OFFICE) Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman and Transport Minister Merav Michaeli give a joint press conference, May 11, 2022. (credit: GOVERNMENT PRESS OFFICE)

The current paternity leave law allows the spouse to split the 15 weeks of maternity leave with the mother, giving her the option to take just the first eight weeks before returning to work, while her husband takes the remaining seven.

However, these parameters mean that paternity leave comes at the expense of the mother, and in reality, only around 1% of men actually exercise this option.

The new law would see men being given a minimum of 14 days of fully paid paternity leave, although the period may be extended for either full or partial pay starting 15 weeks after the baby’s birth, or any time thereafter, providing it is after the mother has returned to work.

Eligibility requirements for men will be the same as they are currently for women: to be eligible for parental leave, an employee must have paid national insurance taxes for either 10 out of the 14 months or 15 out of the 22 months preceding the leave.

There are two major advantages to the new paternity-leave plan: it will allow for meaningful bonding between father and baby, and will work to reduce the gender wage gap.

“During maternity leave, the bond between parent and child is strengthened,” Michaeli said, and the natural bond that a father will be able to form with his child once this law is enacted was a reason for its importance.

Research has shown that the benefits of paternity leave for both father and child can be far-reaching.

The parenting a child experiences during the first months of a child’s life can be instrumental in shaping family dynamics, according to a 2021 report from the US-based survey group Women in the Workplace (WoW).

Almost half of all fathers in the US report dissatisfaction with the amount of time they spend with their children; paid paternity leave can change this.

Research shows that fathers who take leave report a tighter bond with their children, as well as an increased rhythm of interaction with their children.

“It was incredible in terms of building my relationship with my daughter,” one father told WoW. “A year later, we have a very close relationship.”

Additionally, the study showed that longer periods of paternity leave are associated with more frequent engagement in developmental tasks and caretaking during the first few years of children’s lives.

“It is not every day that a vision that I have been fighting for almost 20 years comes true, said Michaeli, herself a mother of a baby. “The struggle for equality takes place on multiple fronts at all times. It is very rare to have one thing, one change, that can affect so many fronts at once. Paternity leave for fathers is just one such change.”

The other change Michaeli was referring to is the reduction of the gender wage gap.

A study conducted in the Chief Economist Division of the Finance Ministry has shown that wages for mothers fall by around 30% after the birth of their first child. This mainly has to do with the reduced hours she can now work, a more limited number of career options due to childcare constraints, or simply because she is passed over for promotion opportunities due to having less flexibility.

The study recommended the implementation of paternity leave for fathers as a specific and direct way to combat this phenomenon. Paternity leave allows both parents to split childcare responsibilities equally, and parenting no longer becomes an unofficial “second job” for the mother, albeit an unpaid one.

“The State of Israel needs a budget, and the Israeli economy needs certainty,” said Liberman of the planned law. “One of the cornerstones of the 2023 budget is to reduce gaps in Israeli society, so I am happy to lead – along with Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli – the granting of fully paid paternity leave to fathers.”

He added that he hoped that the law would reduce the negative incentives that many companies see when it comes to hiring women, as equal leave will level the playing field.

“The citizens of Israel know that there is a government here that cares for them, for their well-being, and significantly improves their quality of life,” Liberman said.