Fathers in Israel will soon be eligible for eight days of paternity leave, if a bill green-lighted by a ministerial panel on Sunday becomes law.

The leave, to run parallel to that granted to mothers, will comprise five days on the account of the father’s sick-pay allocation, plus another three at his own cost.

Since May 1998, fathers have been allowed to take paternity leave instead of — rather than in addition to — their wives, as well as one day of leave when the baby is born and a second day for a circumcision if the baby is a boy.

The bill was proposed by Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg with the support of David Biton (Likud), Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Jewish Home) and Roy Folkman (Kulanu).

The OK from the Ministerial Committee for Legislation means it will now receive government backing. The legislation must still go through other committees and pass three Knesset votes before becoming a law.

MK Tamar Zandberg seen in the Israeli parliament on October 19, 2015. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.

MK Tamar Zandberg seen in the Israeli parliament on October 19, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“The bill is an important step and a breakthrough in approach to parental equality,” said Member of Knesset Eli Alalouf (Kulanu), promising to shepherd the legislation through the Labor, Welfare and Health Committee he chairs.

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) said fathers deserved to be with their babies after birth, while women deserved to have their partners by their side.

Last week, the Economy Ministry came out in opposition to the bill, saying that while it supported the principle of the legislation, the practice would hurt small businesses because it would be difficult for workers to find replacements for eight days. If the state wanted it, the state should pay, the ministry said, according to Channel 2 news.

By the time Sunday’s vote came around, agreement had been reached between the sides.

In December 2015, the Knesset approved the preliminary reading of a separate bill, proposed by Kulanu party MK Rachel Azaria, to change “nursing hour” — which allows women to take off one hour from the working day during the first four months after returning from maternity leave — to “parenting hour,” letting both parents use that time, if the mother of the child consents.

The term “maternity leave” will also be replaced by the term “childbirth and parenthood time.”

While fathers have been entitled — since 1998 — to replace their spouses during part of the maternity leave, most other post-natal allowances have applied only to women.

The explanatory notes accompanying Azaria’s proposal, which has not yet come up for a full Knesset vote, say that data shows that childbirth and absences from work during maternity leave have an adverse impact on the wages of working mothers.

In addition, the bill notes, just 50 percent of employable women are in the workforce, compared to 62.3% of men; these women also have lower wages and work more in part-time employment. Furthermore, 26% of women between the ages of 20-45 gave up their jobs after giving birth.

“The wage gap between women and men is a common phenomenon of childbirth and the associated absences have a direct impact on this, and as such require attention,” the bill states.

The adjustments will also require the National Insurance Institute to notify both parents in writing, at their place of residence, about matters concerning their parenthood rights as set out in the Women’s Work Law.