Finland announces new leave plan

Fathers to receive same amount of paid time off as mothers starting in 2021

Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin has announced a new parental leave plan that will give father the same amount of time off as mothers. The plan is set to begin as early as 2021. Currently, fathers have a 67-day leave.

Finland announced a new parental leave plan giving fathers the same amount of time off as mothers on Feb. 5. The new policy is set to be in effect as early as 2021.

Finland’s current policy provides a paid 128-day leave for mothers and a paid 67-day leave for fathers with an allowance adjusted to the parent’s annual income.  

Under the new system, both parents will receive 164 days of leave (about seven months) with an additional month’s pay given to pregnant mothers. Parents will be able to transfer up to 69 days from their leave to the other parent. Single parents will be provided with 328 days, therefore eligible for the same aid as a two-parent household.

Finland’s new policy passed only a few months after the election of their new Prime Minister, Sanna Marin. \Marin, only 34 years old when elected, is the world’s youngest prime minister. She heads the five governing coalition parties of Finland, all of which have female leaders  and four of whom are under the age of 35.

According to The New York Times, Marin introduced the reform as a means to promote gender equality and inclusivity for same-sex couples while removing gender-specific benefits from Finnish legislation.

“I feel that the American Dream can be achieved best in the Nordic countries, where every child no matter their background or the background of their families can become anything,” Marin said in an interview with The Washington Post.

Xavier’s biology department chair, Jennifer Robbins, shared her thoughts in support of Finland’s extended parental leave policy.

“The United States is one of only two countries in the world that has no guaranteed maternity leave. Despite all our talk about ‘family values,’ we do a remarkably poor job at supporting families,” Robbins said.

Robins explained that explained that when parents get back to work too quickly, some important experiences such as breastfeeding and bonding moments become almost impossible.

“Ultimately, the question is what kind of society we want to live in. A healthy society needs children, and it needs to ensure they are taken care of. We disincentivize having kids in so many ways — it’s just not good big-picture thinking” Robins said.

“Sure, some employers offer generous leave benefits, but if it’s just up to them, then large, for-profit employers have an advantage over small businesses and non-profits, who may not be able to afford to offer paid leave to someone who isn’t there.”

The United States’ only federal parental leave law, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave to mothers and fathers after childbirth or adoption.

Xavier’s family leave policy is that “Employees who qualify for an FMLA leave of absence in accordance with the requirements of the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 will be granted up to 8 weeks full pay leave in a 12-month rolling calendar year,” according to a 2017 policy update from the Office of Human Resources.

Under Finland’s new parental leave laws, parents will be provided nearly double the time U.S. parents receive, all while still being paid.

“I think extending parental leave in the United States is a good idea, I just don’t know how it’d be possible or where that money would come from,” first-year nursing major Olivia Ferraro said.

“Although I definitely think it would have a positive impact on the well-being of children and family life as a whole, it really just depends on who the parents are,” Ferraro stated. “Some people would take that time to actually raise their children or be with their child, but some people would just take it for granted or abuse the gift they’re given.”

President Donald Trump has left a portion funds in his proposed  budget to be set aside for U.S. parental leave.