Prague, April 19 (CTK) – Fathers will have the right to take a one-week paid leave within six weeks after their child’s birth, according to an amendment to the law on health insurance that the Senate, the upper house of Czech parliament, approved on Wednesday.
Besides, the legislation will increase sick pay for voluntary firefighters and other rescuers and extend the right to orphan’s annuity.
If President Milos Zeman signs the amendment into law, it might take effect in the first quarter of next year.
Under the amendment, men could take a one-week paternity leave even if the mother is still in hospital with their offspring.
If they pay health insurance, they will receive 70 percent of the assessment base of their income, which is the same as women get on maternity leave.
The government expects paternity leave to strengthen relations between fathers and their offspring and motivate men to get more involved in childcare.
The men who are registered as fathers in the birth registry or whom a court names as foster parents will have the right to paternity leave. In the latter cases, they could take it until the child turns seven.
The legislation was criticised by the right-wing opposition, mainly the Civic Democrats (ODS). Senate deputy chairman Jaroslav Kubera (ODS) called it a populist move.
Senators for the government parties, the Social Democrats (CSSD), ANO and Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), largely supported the amendment.
“By every step like that, we send an impulse to society showing what values we respect,” Senate chairman Milan Stech (CSSD) said in support of paternity leave.
The bill was supported by 58 out of 77 senators present, one voted against it and the other 18 abstained from the vote.
Some 100,000 babies are annually born in the Czech Republic with a population of 10.5 million.
One-week paternity leave would annually cost from 630 to 800 million crowns from the state budget and the state would lose 72 up to 93 million crowns in taxes.
The amendment also stipulates 100-percent sick pay, which equals the whole assessment base of the income, for voluntary firefighters and other voluntary rescuers if they fall ill or get injured during their deployment. Consequently, they would get the same sick pay level as professional firefighters.
According to the amendment, more children will be entitled to orphan’s annuity. They would have a chance to receive it if their deceased parent were under 28 years and paid social insurance for at least one year in the past ten years or over 38 and paid social insurance for at least two years in the past 20 years.
The yearly costs of this measure are put at 300 million crowns.
The Labour and Social Affairs Ministry says this will lower the pressure on welfare payments to some 4,300 orphans.