Advocates: More parental leave benefits fathers, kids

Father with newborn baby (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Leslie L. Tomaino)Father with newborn baby (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Leslie L. Tomaino)

This week the European Parliament worked on getting the same parental leave into the law for all European Union countries. This would benefit Dutch fathers, who currently only get two paid days leave at the birth of a child.

According to current Dutch law, mothers get 16 weeks of paid maternity leave. Fathers get two days of paid leave around the birth of a child, and employers must allow male employees 3 additional days of unpaid leave.

On Tuesday the European Parliament examined the possibility of uniform rules for all EU countries for one last time. But, according to the AD, the likely outcome will be that each Member State will be allowed to regulate paternal leave itself.

Employers' organizations VNO-NCW and MKB-Nederland think that's fine. "You often see that workers and their supervisors settle this amicably. Moreover fathers see the birth of their children in the majority of the cases coming for 9 months in advance, so they can save up leave days," the employers' organizations told AD.

On the other hand, school leader Jeroen Pouw thinks it is very important for everyone, both parents and child, that the father be able to spend more time with the family after a baby's birth. "During pregnancy a father has no chance to build a natural bond with the baby. And if you have to go back to work soon after the birth because financially you can not take off longer, the chance of a lasting, close relationship with the child is smaller," Pouw said to AD.

He recalled a father saying he had to call the mother to change a diaper because he did not become accustomed to doing it from the beginning. "While: when you as a father have more room to gain experience just after birth, you are better at it in the months to come." According to Pouw, this also makes it easier for mothers to go back to work while the kids are small and leave them with their fathers.

Carolina Weerth, a professor of psychobiology of early development in Nijmegen, is also advocating for more parental leave for fathers. "In Denmark both parents have the first 2 weeks free, with continued payment of salary. This is also the case in the UK and Spain, while fathers in Belgium and France respectively get 10 and 11 days paid leave." Weerth explains in the newspaper. "For me it is about parents getting the chance to get used to the completely new situation. What happens too often now in the Netherlands, is that everyone leaves a new mother after a week. The midwife doesn't come anymore, the maternity nurse is done and then your husband or boyfriend has to go back to work - otherwise he takes too much holiday. And such a mother, especially the inexperienced women, feels really alone then, while everything is going on." Weerth thinks it would be much better if fathers are off in these weeks to properly help their partner. "So you get a really strong team."