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Statement by the Ombudsman for Equality on the family leave reform (TAS 32/2020, issued on 3 March 2020)

The objectives of the family leave reform include a more even distribution of family leaves and care responsibilities between the parents and the realisation of the child's best interests. The reform is aimed especially at encouraging fathers to use a larger proportion of family leaves. The uneven sharing of family leaves has a significant impact on the realisation of gender equality in working life. For this reason, the Ombudsman for Equality finds it vital that the family leave system be reformed by considerably increasing the leave earmarked for fathers. In the Ombudsman’s view, a more even distribution of family leaves and care responsibilities between the parents and between women and men in general promotes gender equality and the wellbeing of families.

The Ombudsman for Equality also considers it important that the diversity of families be taken into account. Paying equal attention to all forms of families, which was set as an objective of the family leave reform, can therefore be supported.

With regard to further preparation, the Ombudsman for Equality emphasises especially the importance of assessing the impacts of the reform from the perspective of equal pay. Special attention should be paid to how the gender-neutral language used in the compensation system would affect the paid periods of maternity and paternity leave secured in collective agreements. The paid periods of leave are currently longer for women, so the potential impacts will affect women, in particular.

Different kinds of flexibility are mentioned as one of the objectives of the reform. In further preparation, it is important to pay attention to when and how the parents want to schedule and share their leave periods. Different kinds of flexibility help to balance the distribution of family leave between the parents. Flexibility also offers solutions to the everyday practical challenges of families.

The Ombudsman for Equality was heard by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health on the Government's family leave reform on 25 February 2020. The full statement can be read as an attachment (in Finnish).