Parental leave-a relatively new concept Posted by kari on Mar 13, 2009 in Culture
As one of you mentioned in a response to the last post on gender equality, Norway implements quite a nice parental leave policy. The best part about the policy is how flexible it is. Parents are allowed to take either 44 weeks (10 months) of full-paid leave or 54 weeks (12.5 months) of 80% paid leave. Now, those months can be split up in several ways. The mother must take 3 weeks off immediately before birth (key word MUST) and 6 weeks immediately following birth. The father must take at least 6 weeks (key word MUST). If the father does not take the leave, it is simply lost as paid leave. The remainder of the time that they choose to take off from work can be split up however they choose. Is that cool or what?
Each parent can also take one year of unpaid leave after the paid period ends. Excellent job security. Each parent must have worked for 6 of the previous 10 months before birth to qualify for paid leave. If they do not meet this requirement, they still get a lump sum from the government. So, in essence, the government pays Norwegians to have babies. Keep in mind, new parents do not have hospital bills either. Of course, Norwegians pay high taxes (for these very reasons…), so it makes sense that they are reimbursed for such expenses as taking care of children.
An increasing number of Norwegian fathers are taking the maximum leave. If you have the option, why not take it, right? Everyone knows that the parent with whom a young child spends the most time will be the parent they are most attached to. Fathers want to be a part of their young child’s life from the start. In an article posted on the norway.org website (the Norwegian embassy in the U.S.), one father says “Paternity leave gives me the opportunity to be as involved in raising her as her mother. Now Ingrid can get to know her father just as well as her mother, and that is great both for her and for us.” It seems so obvious that this is the way it should be, doesn’t it?
If only all parents had this option. In the United States, neither mothers nor fathers are guaranteed paid leave. Each can take 12 weeks if they meet the requirements, but they are unpaid. Therefore, most fathers take a very minimal amount of time off, and working mothers typically do not take more than 2 months. They simply throw the very young child in daycare and are not as involved as most would ideally like to be. It is also common for women to want to go back to work earlier than planned because they are so used to working a lot. As most of you know, the United States is full of workaholics. Many people simply do not know what to do with themselves when they are off work for an extended period of time.
We could definitely take a lesson from Norway’s generous parental leave policy.
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