The Knesset plenum on Wednesday approved 54-0 in preliminary reading a bill to extend paid maternity leave from 14 weeks to 15.If the measure becomes law, the possibility of extending the leave to 16 weeks will be evaluated within six months.Currently, paid maternity leave in Israel lasts 14 weeks, whereby a mother is entitled to 100% of her income according to her salary for the previous three months before birth. Fathers can take paternity leave, but it comes at the expense of the mother’s 14 weeks. Only 0.4% of fathers take paternity leave; to do so they are required to take a minimum of three weeks off of work.The bill would reduce the minimum period to one week, in an effort to encourage fathers to take time off and share in raising the child.The last time maternity leave was extended was in 2007, from 12 weeks to the current 14.MK Rachel Azaria (Kulanu), who initiated the bill, said ahead of the vote that it was meant to bring “good news to all the parents in Israel.”“The fertility rate in Israel is the highest in the OECD and the rate of employment among women is also among the highest in the OECD, but the labor market has not adapted to the fact that both spouses work,” she said. Azaria said that legislation would provide parents with more time to be with their babies, as research shows that every week is critical to newborns’ development.MK Manuel Trajtenberg (Zionist Union) said that extending the parental leave is the right step but it requires change of the whole system.“The parental leave of the 1950s isn’t adjusted to the 21 century,” he said. “These days both parents are working in full-time jobs and demanding careers. The state should reevaluate the whole concept and create a new model of paternal leave. Extending it by a week misses the opportunity to create a real change in this topic.”The bill now goes to further discussions in the Knesset House Committee, and requires first, second and third readings in the plenum to become law.