Israeli fathers will be entitled to go on paternity leave at the government’s expense without reducing maternity leave, in a policy reform announced by Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli on Wednesday.
As of now, Israeli women are entitled to 15 weeks of paid maternity leave after a regular birth, and after this period are entitled to up to a year of unpaid leave after the birth.
From the seventh week of maternity leave onward, fathers can take paternity leave in place of the mother, who would then return to work. Less than one percent of fathers take advantage of the current policy, and fathers are only offered one week of vacation time after birth during which both he and the mother are not working.
The new proposal aims to raise the number of men taking paternity leave, and is in line with recommendations by the OECD. According to the plan, after the 15-week maternity leave ends, the father can take a paternity leave of between two weeks and a month – the span has yet to be determined – without affecting the length of the mother’s leave.
This would leave the baby in the primary care of the father, who would be paid through national insurance, allowing the mother to return to work as quickly as possible. Like mothers on maternity leave, fathers on paternity leave would receive 100 percent of their salary during this time, so long as it is up to three times the national average.
Although the ministers have already announced the proposal, the details have not been finalized, and it is unclear how long the paternity leave will last and whether there will be stipulations. For instance, the plan does not specify whether the father will be able to take paternity leave in the event that the mother goes on unpaid leave herself.
The process will also require legislation, which is likely to pass as part of the 2023 budget. The additional paternity leave is expected to cost the government hundreds of millions of shekels a year. The Finance Ministry also has yet to determine whether the new plan will extend to same—sex parents as well, or just to heterosexual couples.
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The proposal is based in part on a recent study from the Finance Ministry about the “motherhood penalty” in Israel, a term describing the reduction in women’s salaries after the birth of their first child, and which is up to 28 percent. This is chiefly due to reduced working hours, but also because of a general decrease in salary.
At a press conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday, Lieberman said one of the goals of the 2023 budget is to reduce inequality in Israeli society. While he discussed the “excellent” idea with Michaeli before the passing of the last budget, “Now we can make it happen. In no other government would something like this be possible.”
Michaeli said “it is not every day that a vision I have been working toward for 15 to 20 years is fulfilled,” saying it was “is a significant day for all of us in the battle for equality on all fronts. During the first months of an infant’s life, the connection between parent and child are formed, as well as gender roles and stereotypes.”