The Knesset on Wednesday approved in its a preliminary reading a bill that would extend paid maternity leave from 14 to 15 weeks.
Fifty-four lawmakers voted in favor of the bill proposed by Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria, with none opposed.
The Knesset will also weigh another weeklong extension, bumping the leave for new mothers up to 16 weeks, within six months, according to a statement from Azaria’s office this week.
The bill saw Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon — the Kulanu party leader — earmark NIS 230 million ($63 million) to cover the costs incurred by the additional week of paid leave to the National Insurance Institute.
The proposed legislation, which received coalition backing from the Ministerial Committee for Legislation in a vote earlier on Wednesday, would also permit mothers who are studying in university and are required to return to school after several weeks to transfer the remaining period of paid leave to their spouses.
Moreover, under existing laws, all men are currently eligible to take part of the paid leave granted to their wives, but must do so for at least three weeks, Azaria said. The bill reduces the minimum to one week.
Presenting the bill, Azaria noted Israel’s fertility rates and number of working hours, both high compared to OECD countries. Israelis “work the most, give birth the most,” she said, creating a “task that no one can withstand.”
She also said the number of working mothers with small children jumped from 55 percent to 65 percent in recent years.
Azaria pledged to expedite the process of advancing the bill into law, remarking that she promised her fellow party member Merav Ben-Ari, who is pregnant, she would enjoy the benefits of the law.
The last time the Knesset extended paid maternity leave was in 2007, when it was raised from 12 to 14 weeks. In June, the Knesset approved a five-day paternity leave for new fathers, though the time off is deducted from their vacation days and sick leave rather than being covered by the National Insurance Institute.