A bill granting fathers eight days of paternity leave after the birth of a child is sparking opposition from critics arguing that it would add an extra burden to small businesses already struggling to survive.
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The bill, which won the support of Israel's governing coalition this week, gives fathers the right to take three of their existing vacation days after the birth of a baby and receive five extra sick days at the employer's expense. All the leave would be paid.
The proposal is expected to cost NIS 40 million to NIS 60 million a year, of which including NIS 15 million to NIS 23 million would come from the state coffers.
"It's outrageous," said Yaron Gindi, president of the Israeli Tax Advisers Association. “The daily salary cost of an employee earning NIS 15,000 a month is NIS 800. Multiply that by five, and you get an expense of NIS 4,000 for a father’s paternity leave, which falls on the employer."
As it is, 80% of small businesses last no more than two years, and a paternity leave law would make it even more difficult for them to stay afloat, he said. “Israel has 500,000 small businesses, which are the economy’s engine," said Gindi. "They pay most of the country’s tax and bear most of the burden. And now this would make things even more difficult for them. Knesset members want to make things better for employees because it’s popular and sexy, but no one is thinking about small businesses.”
Uriel Lynn, who heads the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, also opposes forcing businesses to pay for five days of paternity leave. Employees should not be paid for sick days unless they’re actually sick, he said.
“Somehow, over the years, the meaning of sick days became distorted and sick days became a benefit,” said Lynn.
Women in Israel get 14 weeks of paid maternity leave, and have the option of taking an additional three months of unpaid leave.
The coalition will be supporting the bill, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation decided this week. The only minister voting against coalition support was Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who said it wasn’t clear where the money would come from.
“This is a balanced proposal," said MK Tamar Zandberg of Meretz, who sponsored the bill, with the support of Habayit Hayehudi. She said the benefit to society outweighs the cost, adding: "Everyone needs to understand that the first days of parenting are a special event that justify special leave for fathers."