Until recently, only women in Israel received automatic parental leave following childbirth. The husband, while entitled by law to up to 6 weeks of leave, could only take off from work once the mother returned to work, and only after a period of six weeks from the birth date. But this may be about to change. According to a bill introduced by Kadima MK Robert Tiviaev, new fathers will be entitled to a seven day leave with pay, starting on the day that a new baby is born.
Tivaiaev explained that the bill comes from request from testimony of many men who appeared at the Knesset committee meetings on the subject, testimony which he believes is confirmed by research collected on paternity leave practices around the world.
“This bill is designed to allow the woman’s partner to help her during her first week after the birth.” the legislation states. “The new mother lying in the hospital or at home needs a lot of intimate help. There are baby accessories to buy and attention that needs to be given to the elder children. The person who needs to do these chores is not the tired mother, but the father, who sometimes is forced to take a vacation out of his vacation days so he can fulfill his basic requirements.”
Interestingly, in Sweden, new parents are allotted 480 paid days of leave, of which one parent may only take up to 420 days; the other 60 days are for the partner. In Italy, men can take any part of the five months that women get. In England, new fathers get two weeks paid and another 13 weeks unpaid, or 26 weeks paid leave instead of the mother. In France, men get two weeks or three weeks for twins, in Holland men receive two days, and in Spain, men get 15 days. In the United States, men can take up to twelve weeks unpaid leave, which is not as attractive as many European countries, but at least it’s better than Russia, where men get zero days, even if the mother dies in childbirth.
“The bill is intended to relieve a lot of the heavy workload that the new parents have and also to give the partner a chance to be present with his wife and family at such a crucial time,” Tivaiaev added.
Raanan Shaked, whose weekly column in Yediot has been frequently tackling issues relating to fatherhood since his first child was born last year, offered a tongue-in-cheek support of the bill. “We deserve it,” he wrote in a column this week. “We also experience trauma of birth, after our wives stay up all night breastfeeding… And our bodies need time to recover and return to themselves. It will take time for us to shed the extra pounds from the candy bars in the hospital lobby… And after the birth, we are hormonally sensitive, prone to depression, especially when we realize our lives have changed forever.”
Thankfully, the thoughtful legislators won out over the sort-of-sexist pundits, and the bill is now moving forward in the Knesset plenum. It is expected to be brought up for debate at the next Knesset general assembly in a few weeks.
Dr. Elana Maryles Sztokman is an award-winning author and feminist researcher, educator and activist. She is currently studying to become a rabbi at Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem, and is blogging about her journey at www.jewfem.com
Bill Seeks To Make Israel's Paternity Leave More Generous