Netanyahu's Bureau Pushing for State-funded Paternity Leave

Under the current policy fathers are only entitled to split the leave with the mothers, who get 15 paid weeks off

A protest in Tel Aviv, 2011.
Nir Keidar

Staff at the Prime Minister’s Office is at work on a plan to provide separate paternity leave in the private and public sector that would not be deducted from the mother’s leave period but would instead be paid for by the government after the mother of a newborn child concludes her maternity leave.

Under the policy currently in force, fathers do not receive government-funded paternity leave, but are entitled to split the leave with the baby’s mother, who is entitled to 15 weeks of paid leave. In practice, fewer than 1 percent of fathers take any of the mother’s paid maternity leave.

As it stands now, what is being considered is paternity leave at the state’s expense of a minimum of two weeks and a maximum of a month. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is supportive of the plan, but it is not expected to be finalized by professional staff in the Prime Minister’s Office until a new government is in place following the April 9 Knesset election.

It is estimated that a week’s paternity leave would cost the government about 500 million shekels ($136 million) a year if every father took advantage of the program. Of the approximately 140,000 births a year in Israel in which mothers are entitled to maternity leave, only 1,000 fathers, on average, use any of the mother’s leave.

In developing the plan, the staff at the Prime Minister’s Office has consulted with the OECD, the international organization of the world’s developed countries, including Israel. The staff’s assumption has been that providing separate paternity leave will help close wage disparities.

Studies in Israel and abroad have shown that the brains of fathers who care for their children from early infancy change substantially. Other studies show that the father’s care at this stage of life also contributes considerably to the baby’s development.

Initially the staff at the Prime Minister’s Office considered having the parents of the child take leave at the same time, but it was ultimately dropped. The office is currently eliciting feedback from the public and has contacted employers for their reaction as well.