On August 1, a new family leave policy took effect in Finland. In this blog post, we take a brief look at what this means for families.
Background on the new policy
Under the previous leave policy, both mothers and fathers had designated leave periods. They could also share undesignated leave periods between themselves as they saw fit. In reality, however, women in Finland are using nearly 90 % of all parental leave days and over 90 % of childcare leaves.
The previous policy allowed the father to use some of his paternity leave at the same time the mother was on leave. This allowed the father to take leave, for example, right after the baby was born. Since this type of paternity leave became possible, the share of fathers taking advantage of this leave possibility has hovered around 70 %.
Over the years, the share of fathers taking their paternity leave when the mother was not on any kind of family leave has steadily increased. A little over 10 % of men who became fathers in 2006 took this type of leave. By 2017, their share was around 48 %.
However, about 80 % of fathers do not use all of their leaves. Over 50 % of fathers do not use the paternity leave option that allows them to stay home with their child after the parental leave period. This specific way to use the paternity leave days was designed to let fathers take independent responsibility for childcare.
The fact that women still take the majority of available childcare leaves has an indirect effect on women’s labor market status. Women, for example, encounter pregnancy and childcare-related discrimination. Long leaves affect women’s pension levels later on in life and they also affect women’s career trajectories.
The purpose of the new family leave policy in Finland is therefore to make:
- the distribution of childcare-related leaves more equal between spouses;
- the treatment of different family configurations more equal in the eyes of the law; and
- the family leave and financial support system more flexible so that it takes into account the differing needs of different types of families and family situations.
If successful, all of these will increase the well-being of families in Finland.
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Core changes in the new family leave policy in Finland
This new family leave policy is gender-neutral in the sense that we no longer have maternity or paternity leaves. Now the law talks about special pregnancy allowance, pregnancy allowance, and parental allowance.
Changing the names of the allowances reflects the fact that now, like always, not all families are alike. Some families have two same-sex parents. Some families only have one parent. In some families, the child is adopted. In some, children are the biological children of one or both parents. Making the language of the law gender-neutral allows the lawmakers to take into consideration all of these families with the same provisions.
Under the previous family leave policy, the mother was entitled to maternity leave the length of which was 105 working days. The father was entitled to 54 working days. The parents could share 158 working days as they saw fit.
There were additional provisions for families welcoming multiples and families welcoming adoptive children.
Under the new policy, the pregnancy allowance leave is 40 working days in length. The birthing parent also has 160 days of parental leave. 63 days of this leave they can transfer to the other parent or another person taking care of the child. The child’s other parent is entitled to 160 days of parental leave. Again, 63 days of which are transferable.
This new family leave policy applies to those whose child is due after September 4, 2022. In the case of adoptive children, it applies to families whose child is coming home on or after July 31, 2022. You can read more about the specifics of the allowance here on KELA’s webpages.
The new family leave policy and Finnish workplaces
Under the law, employers don’t have to pay salary to those on parental leaves. After all, parents receive allowances from the state. In reality, however, many collective agreements state that some days of the parental leaves are in fact salaried.
Currently, very few collective agreements, however, take into consideration the new family leave policy. Instead, in most cases, the same periods of family leaves are salaried as before. This means that mothers are entitled to longer periods of salaried leave than fathers.
Many previously negotiated collective agreements stipulate that the mother receives pay, for example, for the first 72 days of their maternity leave. Fathers, instead, often only receive salary for the first 6 days of their paternity leave. Despite the change in family leave policy, most collective agreements in the private sector still say this. One of the few that does reflect the new policy is the general collective agreement for universities.
There, the pregnancy allowance period of 40 days is salaried. So are the first 32 days of the parental leave period.
The situation is better in the public sector where many collective agreements already reflect the new family leave policy.
As we said above, one of the goals of the new policy is to make the distribution of childcare-related leaves more equal between spouses. However, as long as the collective agreements do not support this goal it will be difficult to see real change. Financial considerations after all play an important role in the decisions families make.
In many industries, employee side unions have tried to get collective agreements changed but negotiations have often failed. Employers state rising costs as a reason for their reluctance to adopt a policy similar to the one universities and the public sector has. You can
Learn more about Finnish employment-related laws and regulations
In this blog, we write about the Finnish labor market. We discuss its different features, the laws and regulations that govern it, and changes to those laws and regulations. This is the only English-language source where you can find this type of information regularly. We publish new content 2-4 times a month.
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