The Knesset’s health committee backed a bill on Monday that would allow either parent to take advantage of a parental leave benefit known as “breast-feeding hour.”
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The bill, proposed by MK Rachel Azaria (Kulanu), will now go to the Knesset for a preliminary vote, after receiving unanimous support from the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee.
The bill concerns the right to leave work for one hour, for a period of four months, after the end of a maternity leave. At present, this right is granted only to mothers, ostensibly to allow them to breast-feed their babies.
The new bill stipulates that the term “breast-feeding hour” will be changed to “parenting hour,” and the term “maternity leave” will be changed to “maternity and parenting leave.”
The bill adds that both parents must inform their employer of their intended absences no later than 14 days before the end of the maternity leave, noting the days on which they will be absent.
According to Azaria, “the easier we make it for mothers of small children, allowing more role sharing between parents, the better. Each family will decide which parent leaves work early.”
Attorney Miral Nakhoul, from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, welcomed the decision. “This is an important step that will enable women to advance in the workplace, as well as contributing to closing the wage gap between men and women.”
However, the Association of Artisans and Small Industry and the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce both opposed the move, arguing that intermittent absences would make it difficult for employers to find replacements.
“For small businesses, it is hard to plan and organize when there is only a small number of employees,” said AASI attorney Mordekhay Azran.
FICC attorney Sigal Sudai, meanwhile, called on employers to ensure that the hour away from work is not used by both parents.
“Managers have to prepare for these changes in their manpower scheduling, as in other circumstances,” said MK Azaria in response.
On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved another bill that, for the first time, would grant childbirth benefits to women giving birth at home. These women were previously excluded from the childbirth grant since the state wished to encourage hospital deliveries, which until recently were considered safer.