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Govt approves one-week paternity leave

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Overcrowded kindergartens may not be a problem anymore.Overcrowded kindergartens may not be a problem anymore. (ČTK)

Parents who want to put their child in a nursery school or kindergarten might spend a long time searching. The Czech Republic doesn’t have enough daycare centres to address the baby boom and the private facilities are expensive for many families. A new legislation, proposed by the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry and approved by the government this week, could help solve the problem.

The so called family package introduces a number of new regulations such as creating state-paid one-week holiday for fathers, flexible job opportunities or company kindergartens. The aim is to help parents manage both work and raising children.

Under the proposal, the father could apply for state-paid one-week holiday within the first six weeks after his child is born. The state would pay 70% of his weekly salary. Currently, only women are eligible to receive maternity leave, while fathers who want to stay at home with a child must take time off work. The ministry expects up to 80% of men to use the benefit, the news site Tý wrote.

The legislation should also make it easier for mothers to find a part-time job. According to ČTK information, the Czech Republic is a country with the lowest share of part-time work contracts in the EU. While almost one-third of women and one in 12 men work part-time in the EU on average, in the Czech Republic, it is 9% of women and only one in 50 men.

The ministry wants to offer tax and social insurance relief for employers who will create part-time jobs for people who have difficulties finding work such as people over 55, parents with children under ten or people caring for helpless family members, Tý wrote.

The ministry wants to expand the number of daycare facilities by offering tax relief for companies who would establish child-care centres for their employees’ children. The centres would provide space for up to five children and employees would not have to worry about not having anyone to watch their kids. “This is a long-term problem in our company and I think this could be the solution,” Štěpán Marzini of T-Mobile told Hospodářské noviny. Apart from companies, municipalities, non-profit organisations or churches would be entitled to establish a daycare centre.

Another alternative to overcrowded kindergartens is babysitting. Under the new regulation, neighbours could assist parents with taking care of their child. This would require a legal contract between the family and the assistant. Neighbours could babysit up to four children under 7 on condition one of the children is their own. No special training would be required. The proposal raises criticism among experts. “I’m terrified to imagine anyone without qualification taking care of a child. This requires a lot of responsibility,” Jana Míčková Sladká of Bibo daycare agency told Hospodářské noviny.

Anna Čurdová, a Social Democratic shadow minister for family issues, told Tý she would agree with the proposal only on condition all mothers had at least one hundred hours of training plus a first aid course. “It’s certainly disadvantageous for people with experience and qualification,” she said. The ministry, however, says it is common for neighbours to help each other taking care of children, only it is not part of any legislation.

If approved, people could make up to CZK 15,000 a month by looking after their neighbour’s child. They would be exempt from paying income tax, social or health insurance. Mothers who ask a neighbour for help would still be eligible to receive maternal allowance from the state. “Parents who send their children to a state school for all-day programme lose the benefit. We’re promoting this model as it is cheaper for the state. And it allows mothers to work,” deputy labour minister Marián Hošek told HN.

Parliament is likely to approve the package proposed by the Labour and Social Affairs Minister Petr Nečas, HN wrote. If approved, the new legislation would come into effect in January 2010.

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