Denmark agrees new rules for parental leave

The agreement was presented by the employment ministry on Wednesday evening.

Because the reform tags more of the statutory parental leave to each parent, fathers and other partners are effectively entitled to nine weeks’ more leave than under current rules.

Under the new rules, each parent is granted 24 weeks each of leave following the birth of a child, with a total of 11 weeks “earmarked” for each parent.

The set 11 weeks has been termed “earmarked” (earmarked) parental leave because the two parents cannot transfer the leave from one to another, thus enabling one parent to take more than the designated 11 weeks.

The mother has a right to four weeks’ pregnancy leave prior to giving birth and both parents can take two weeks’ leave immediately after the birth.

That leaves a remaining earmarked 9 weeks, which can be taken at any time withing the first year after birth but are tagged to each parent, as are the initial 2 post-birth weeks. If one parent does not use all of their 11 weeks, those weeks lapse.

This represents a significant departure from the model currently in place, which is as follows:

  • Pregnancy leave for the mother from four weeks prior to expected birth date.
  • Maternity leave for mother for 14 weeks following birth.
  • Leave for father or second parent for two weeks following birth (or at any time during first 14 weeks, subject to employer agreement).
  • 32 weeks of paid parental leave which can be shared between the two parents, with an optional further 32 weeks unpaid.

Parental leave (totalling a shared 32 weeks under the current system) can be held concurrently or separately, or a combination of the two, depending on how the parents want to organise their time off, childcare needs and so on.

As such, one parent can take as much as 32 weeks’ parental leave if the other does not take any (or only uses their two weeks’ leave post-birth).

Acting minister for employment and equality Mattias Tesfaye said the new agreement boosts equality in Denmark.

“Danish fathers will now take more parental leave, I’m in no doubt about that. I think this will be good for both mother and father, but also for the children, who are sometimes forgotten in this discussion,” Tesfaye said at a briefing to present the reform.

“I think it’s beneficial for children to be at home with mum and dad, or whoever it is in a modern family who has had a child,” the minister added.

The proposal, which has long been expected in a similar form to the one presented on Tuesday, has previously elicited a divided response since.

Backers said that tagging leave to each parents promotes equality, while critics say it interfere with childcare decisions in the private sphere.

READ ALSO: Parental leave in Denmark: Government wants ‘most choice possible’ for families

The new rules also introduce equality between single fathers and single mothers with regard to the number of weeks of parental leave after the birth. In each case, the single parent receives 46 weeks of leave.

LGBT+ families are permitted to divide their leave between up to four parents.

The Social Democrats, Liberal, Social Liberal, Socialist People’s Party, Red Green Alliance and Alternative parties all back the proposal, enough to see it comfortably passed into law.

Negotiations over the reform took place due to a 2019 EU directive which requires member states to ensure a minimum of nine weeks’ earmarked parental leave for each parent by 2022.

The deal will come into effect in August 2022.

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