Maternity Benefits to Cover Births at 22 Weeks, Stillbirths

Employers have taken advantage of the lack of legal protection to fire women who had suffered stillbirths, says legal adviser.

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Women would be eligible for full birth benefits for babies born starting at the 22nd week of pregnancy, regardless of whether the baby survives, under legislation approved by the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee Wednesday.

Currently, grants are only given for births starting at 26 weeks.

The bill, a private initiative by MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid), was merged with a similar bill sponsored by the government.

The bill grants women the full range of benefits offered by the National Insurance Institute, including a birth grant and maternity leave.

“Finally, after so many years, we’re fixing an injustice done to many women and many families,” Lavie said. “Until now, those who suffered stillbirths went through not only loss, but also humiliation at the hands of society and the workplace.”

The legal adviser of the Israel Women’s Network, Keren Greenblatt, said employers took advantage of the lack of legal protection in this regard to fire women who had suffered stillbirths.

Currently, pregnant women and women who have recently returned from maternity leave are protected from being fired.

The Finance Ministry’s Yael Agmon said the estimated cost of the bill was 2 million to 3 million shekels ($772,000) a year.

The bill would take effect on the first day of the month following its publication.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation is also considering a proposal by MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) to extend birth grants to women who choose home births. Currently, women must give birth in hospitals in order to receive the grant. Around 0.5% of the 170,000 births in Israel annually are home births.

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