The Family Leave Reform: Longer Leave with More Equal Allocation

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Finland’s aim is to become a leader in equality. The family leave reform issued by Parliament is one of the means to achieve this goal. The family leave reform is also based on the so called EU Work-life Balance Directive ((EU) 2019/1158). The main objectives of the family leave reform are

1. to allocate family leaves and care responsibilities in families equally between the parents

2. to strengthen non-discrimination and equality in working life

3. to reduce the gender pay gap.

The family leave reform removes some currently used terms such as maternity leave, special maternity leave, paternity leave and parental leave from employment legislation. Terms that will replace them include

The reform increases the total parental allowance entitlement, and the parental allowance days are allocated more equally to both parents. The family leave reform also includes amendments to the protection of pregnant employees and employees who have recently given birth as well as amendments to partial parental leave and carers’ leave.

This post highlights some of the most significant amendments of the reform in relation to pregnancy and parental leave.

The duration of leave is based on the Health Insurance Act

The duration of pregnancy and parental leave will be tied to the durations of pregnancy and parental allowance periods pursuant to the Health Insurance Act, as is the case in the current legislation. Employees are therefore entitled to receive income-related parental allowance for the duration of the parental leave and income-related pregnancy allowance for the duration of the pregnancy leave. Restrictions related to taking leave will be provided for in the Employment Contracts Act in the future as well.

Pregnancy leave

Employees will in the future be entitled to an uninterrupted pregnancy leave of 40 weekdays. Similarly to the current legislation, an employee’s pregnancy leave starts 30 days before the expected due date, unless the employer and the employee agree on a later starting date. The pregnancy leave must, however, be started 14 weekdays before the expected due date at the latest.

If the child is born prematurely over 30 weekdays before the expected due date, the employee will be entitled to start the pregnancy leave from the time of the childbirth.

Parental leave

In the future, parents will be entitled to parental leave of a maximum of 320 weekdays when a child is born or adopted. The right to parental leave days will, however, be divided evenly between the parents so that both parents receive a parental leave allocation of 160 weekdays. A parent may donate a maximum of 63 days of their own parental leave allocation to the other parent, other guardian of the child, the parent’s spouse or the other parent’s spouse. As a rule, the number of parental leave days is child-specific, and the days must be used before the child reaches the age of two.

Employees can take parental leave in up to four separate periods of at least 12 weekdays. The employee and the employer can, however, agree that the employee can take parental leave in more periods or in shorter periods. Even though an employee is also entitled to parental allowance for the second child or more, the employee can, however, only take up to four parental leave periods during one calendar year. If a parental leave period continues past the end of a calendar year, that period is deemed to belong to the allocation of the calendar year during which it started.

Similarly to the current legislation, the parents may be on parental leave or on pregnancy leave and parental leave at the same time based on the same child for up to 18 weekdays.

Notice periods

The deadlines for notifying the employer of pregnancy or parental leave will remain the same as under the current legislation. Therefore, the employer must be notified of pregnancy or parental leave primarily two months before the planned starting date of the leave at the latest in the future as well. If the duration of the leave is 12 weekdays at most, the notice period is only one month.

Entry into force

Even though the provisions related to pregnancy and parental leave enter into force on 1 August 2022, they will only become applicable if the expected due date is on 4 September 2022 or later. This means that if the expected due date is, for example, on 10 August 2022, the current provisions on maternity, paternity and parental leave will still be applied for that child.