The Knesset gave final approval on Tuesday, March 21, to legislation extending paid maternity leave by one week. As a result, women who have or will give birth after January 1, 2017 are now entitled to 15 weeks of paid leave. However, parents may optionally choose to take one week of leave together, instead of the mother receiving the additional week. Couples who opt for the week of joint vacation may do so at any time during the mother’s 14-week leave.
The new law also makes it easier for fathers to take part of the paid leave instead of the mother. Previously, fathers had to take at least three weeks of paid leave. Now, they can replace the mother for as little as one week.
Lawmakers Dov Khenin (Hadash – Joint List) and Rachel Azaria (Kulanu) were the sponsors of the new legislation. However, Khenin remarked that, with its passage, the job of extending maternity leave is still not complete. “We’re making progress towards the standard of maternity leave granted in developed countries, but we must continue our work both regarding the length of birth leave as well as enabling mothers and fathers to be equal partners in parenting,” he said. Khenin has been trying to extend maternity leave for years. Back in the 17th Knesset (2006-09), he proposed extending it from 12 to 16 weeks, but lawmakers at the time(2007) decided to cap it at 14 weeks.
Last June, the Knesset approved a five-day paternity leave for new fathers. However, this time off from work is deducted from their vacation days and sick leave rather than being covered by the National Insurance Institute.