Support for paternity leave bill looks set to tip scales in its favour

Photo: Shawn Anderson, CC BY-NC 2.0

The concept of a short paternity leave, which has been debated on the Czech political scene since 2010, looks close to being realized. The proposal, approved by the government in May of this year, has divided the Cabinet and united old-time rivals.

Photo: Shawn Anderson,  CC BY-NC 2.0
Paternity leave, as proposed by Labour and Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksová, is to aid the process of family bonding and would enable fathers to take a week of paid leave to be with their new-born within six weeks of the baby’s birth. Paternity leave would be voluntary and those who chose to take it would receive 70 percent of their base salary, which is the same percentage currently received by women on maternity leave.

The proposal has divided the ruling coalition with Finance Minister Andrej Babiš dead set against the idea which would cost between 700 and 900 million crowns annually. Although he was outvoted on the matter in May of this year, when the Social Democrats and Christian Democrats backed the proposal in the Cabinet, the finance minister remains strongly opposed to introducing paternity leave. For once, the minister’s stand is supported by some of his strongest critics from the right-wing TOP 09 and the Civic Democratic Party. TOP 09 leader Miroslav Kalousek considers the plan a waste of money in view of the fact that fathers have regular leave which they can take after their baby is born. Civic Democratic Party leader Petr Fiala describes the drive as a populist move ahead of the elections.

However other opposition parties have joined the Social and Christian Democrats’ camp a look set to turn the scales in its favour of paternity leave after years of deliberation on the subject. The Communist Party, which has 33 seats in the lower house, has promised to support it and so has the small grouping Usvit with its seven votes. Together with the votes of the Social Democrats and Christian Democrats this would secure 104 votes in favour of the bill and see it passed by the lower house when it reconvenes after the summer break. If all goes according to plan the bill would come into effect as of September 2017.