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Trade Union News from Finland
Fathers to get new benefits if they stay at home with the baby

Helsinki (14.02.2013 - Heikki Jokinen) The law concerning paternity leave in Finland has been amended since the beginning of the year, allowing the father to take longer paid paternal leave. This is a part of the policy to divide childcare more equally between parents and to encourage fathers to spend more time with their new babies.

Paternity leave is now 54 working days altogether, approximately 9 weeks. According to Finland's social security provider Kela the father can take 1-18 working days as paternity leave after the child is born.

With this change in paternity leave, fathers can be at home at the same time as the mother. Kela will pay paternity allowance for the duration of the leave. Thus, the mother is still entitled to maternity allowance during this period when both parents are on leave.

The father can take the rest of his paternity leave or the whole 54 working days after the maternity allowance period. Paternal leave cannot be transferred to the mother and nor is it deducted from the mother's entitlement.

About 73 per cent of fathers take 18 days paternity leave after their child is born, but only 27 per cent availed of the "daddy month", which allowed the father to stay up to 25 working days with the child.

Trade union confederations support the change and it is included in the framework agreement of the central labour market organisations from October 2011. The Finnish Confederation of Professionals STTK began a campaign in February 2013 to encourage fathers to make full use of their paternal leave.

The country is full of real "hero mothers", says STTK, and wants to spur fathers on to be more engaged when it comes to taking care of their own children. The confederation launched a "Hero father" campaign including web material and a video. STTK also promises a free bib to the first 500 fathers who take advantage of the prolonged paternity leave.

Both STTK and Akava, the Confederation of Unions for Professional and Managerial Staff in Finland are advocating a so-called 6 + 6 + 6 model for paternal leave. In this model the mother will have six months leave, the father six and the remaining six months could be divided freely between parents.

The Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions SAK stresses the need for greater flexibility in parental leave as their goal. There has to be quotas for fathers, but the part that parents can decide freely should be the biggest share of the leave. The situation of families and demands of working life are different and for this reason flexibility is crucial, says SAK.

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