Bill to Increase Maternity Leave to 15 Weeks Clears First Hurdle in Knesset

Knesset panel currently considering whether to increase allowance to 16 weeks; bill also looks to increase take-up of paternity leave by new fathers.

Mothers (and a father) with their babies in Tel Aviv (illustrative).
Tomer Appelbaum

A bill to extend maternity leave in Israel to 15 weeks passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset on Wednesday.

Maternity leave in Israel is currently 14 weeks, during which mothers are entitled to 100 percent of their salary, based on their pay during the three months prior to childbirth.

If the bill passes its second and third Knesset readings and becomes law, the extra week will apply as early as this year. The bill may also include benefits such as discounts at day-care centers.

Over the next six months, the Knesset Reform Committee will also examine the possibility of extending maternity leave for an additional week, to 16 weeks.

In Western countries within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, mothers were entitled to just less than 18 weeks’ paid maternity leave on average in 2015.

The bill will also encourage new fathers to share more of a mother’s paid maternity leave. At present, fathers receive six days’ paternity leave, including the day of the birth itself; if they want to take extra paternity leave, it comes out of the wife’s 14-week allowance and they must take a minimum of three weeks. The new bill would reduce this minimum to one week, in an effort to encourage greater involvement by fathers.

In addition, new mothers who are college students and are required to return to school will also be able to share some of their leave with the baby’s father.

The bill, which was proposed by Knesset Reform Committee chairwoman MK Rachel Azaria (Kulanu), had been approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation with the support of the governing coalition.