Paid Paternity Takes Baby Step Closer to Becoming Law in Israel

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A father holding his baby (illustrative). Credit: Dreamstime

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a bill Sunday that will give new fathers eight days' paid paternity leave.

Three days would be taken from the father’s vacation entitlement, while the other five would come from his accumulated sick days.

The bill was given a green light despite the first signatory on the bill being an opposition MK, Tamar Zandberg (Meretz). The ministers were lobbied hard by the second signatory, MK David Bitan (Likud), as well as by Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Habayit Hayehudi), who had sponsored an earlier version of the legislation, and Immigrant Absorption Minister Zeev Elkin, whose fifth daughter was born this past week.

“The three of them enlisted all their power for this law,” said Zandberg. “They confronted the Economy Ministry and pushed for it in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation,” she added. The committee’s approval means the bill now goes to the Knesset with government backing, making it likely to be passed.

Several versions of paternity leave bills have been discussed in recent years. This version passed a preliminary reading in the Knesset in 2013, but died in the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee after strong opposition from employers who claimed it would impose a heavy burden on businesses, particularly small ones.

This time, when it reaches the same committee, it will have the support of another man – panel chairman MK Eli Alalouf (Kulanu). Zandberg said the interesting coalition that coalesced around the law emerged “because it’s a proper law, and they believed in it. Sometimes the Knesset knows how to rise above itself,” she noted.

Zandberg remained cautious because there is still a long road until the bill passes. However, she was “optimistic, because there’s a lot of support” for it. She noted that several MKs from all the Knesset factions are listed as sponsors. “I hope that this time the government will be able to be tougher with the employers. It’s a short law that I think could pass within a few weeks.”

The bill would allow men to be home with their partners right after the birth. Currently, fathers are not eligible for any paternity leave on their own. Instead, they are eligible to split the mother's maternity leave after the mother has taken the first six weeks.

In addition, fathers will not have to request the leave from their employers; they will be entitled to it by law.

“Over the past two-and-a-half years, I’ve heard from men who really wanted to be with their babies after birth, but couldn’t get more than a day or two off from work,” said Zandberg. “This should be obvious, and the fact that we need a law for it just shows what kind of equality we really have in 2016.

“In the past, men were never in the delivery room; today, there’s no one who thinks the man shouldn’t be there,” she added. “In the same fashion, we are establishing a change: the father also wants to be home after the birth, and with this law it will become the norm. We’ve got a long way to go sharing [child care] equally, but this is a first step.”

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