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Dad's postpartum

Today something on the fathers... It is commonly known that the first weeks after birth are quite precarious for mother and child, who both go through a huge process of transformation. The presence of daddy during these days contributes in a positive way to the birth of a family. Moreover, it gives new dads the perfect opportunity to add a crash course in fatherhood to their cv. Later on in life, fathers not seldom complain that due to professional obligations they missed out on the precious first days of bonding. It won't come as a surprise that the debate on the number of (paid) days off during the immediate postpartum has been on political agendas across the globe for many years.

In The Netherlands for instance, some have been arguing for years that the country is lagging behind with its low number of paternity leave days. The Dutch government is now working on legislation that is planned to enter into force in 2019 and that will extend the number of paid paternity leave days from the current 2 days to 5 days, reports Het Financieele Dagblad. Would this bridge the gap?

A 2014 report by the International Labour Organization allows for a quick global comparison. According to the ILO, at least 79 countries of the 167 monitored, have enshrined paternity leave in their national legislation. Of these, 44 countries – among which for instance Benin, Kenya, Latvia, Slovenia, Portugal and Iceland – offered a paternity leave of seven days or more.

Numbers do not say everything though. The number of paid days, conditions upon which payment is granted and the height of the benefit may vary. Furthermore, much depends on the exact definition of ‘paternity leave’. Some countries for instance, might not make the distinction between paternity and maternity leave on the one hand, and parental leave on the other hand.

For practical reasons, I’ll stick to the description offered by the ILO in the above mentioned report. It notices that paternity leave is usually seen as “a short period of leave to care for the child and the mother around the time of childbirth”. Parental leave on the other hand “tends to be a longer period of leave to care for the child beyond maternity or paternity leave and is typically available to one or both of the parents”. With this in mind, let us take a closer look at some countries of interest.

Belgium In Belgium, fathers have a right to ten days of paternity leave which they can claim within four months of the delivery (starting on the day of birth itself). They do not necessarily have to claim them all in an uninterrupted row. During the first three days of leave, fathers have a right to their full wage, to be paid by the employer. In the final seven days, they have a right to a benefit of 82% of their lost bruto wage. More information can be found here.

Denmark Fathers in Denmark have a right to two weeks of paternity leave, which they should use within fourteen weeks of the delivery. The leave is paid, but the exact amount of the benefit varies from sector to sector. Employees in the public sector are paid their full wage, while in other sectors it depends on the arrangement negotiated between employers and employees. More information can be found here.

Germany In Germany there seems to be no paternity leave in the Dutch and Belgian sense of the word. More information on the general system of parental leave and allowance – ‘Elterngeld’ and ‘Elterngeldplus’ can be found here and here. Norway Norway makes no distinction between different forms of leave concerning birth and upbringing of children. Instead, all couples who are eligible (depending on, among other things, the last place of employment, duration of employment prior to the leave, and income) get 49 or 59 weeks of parental leave, depending on whether they choose a 100% or an 80% financial coverage. Of these weeks, thirteen are allocated to the mother – three prior to, ten after delivery – and ten to the father. The parents can divide the remaining weeks among themselves as they see fit. More information can be found here.

Slovenia In Slovenia, fathers have a right to fifteen days of paid leave within the first six months after their child is born. According to their own preference, they may use them all in a row, or plan individual days. More information can be found here, here, and here. Sweden Swedish fathers have a right to ten days of paid leave after their child is born. On a larger scale, the Swedish system of parental leave is quite elaborate. More information on the Swedish model can be found here, and here.

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