Bill seeks to equalize parental care for newborns

Legislation aims to close gender pay gap by replacing ‘maternity leave’ with ‘childbirth and parenthood time’

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Kulanu party MK Rachel Azaria. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Kulanu party MK Rachel Azaria. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Knesset on Wednesday approved the preliminary reading of a bill to equalize the rights of parents of newborns, aiming to help close the gender pay gap by removing some of the parenting burdens faced by working mothers of newborns that hinder them in the workplace.

The bill, sponsored by MK Rachel Azaria from the Kulanu party, enables fathers to take more time off from work to attend to needs of their infants. The proposed changes to the Women’s Labor Law and the National Insurance Law passed with a vote of 49 in favor and none against.

The legislation will 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.”

As of May 1, 1998, fathers have been entitled to replace their spouses during part of the maternity leave and to receive a paternity allowance for that time, but most other post-natal allowances apply only to women.

The explanatory notes accompanying the proposal 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 and 45 stopped working altogether 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.

Azaria called the bill beneficial for both fathers and mothers, allowing parents to share the experience of child-rearing.

“The women will not be the only ones juggling work and raising children, the fathers will be able to enjoy fatherhood — which in my opinion is one of the greatest advantages that men have from the feminist movement — and the children will enjoy both parents,” she said. “In future, the relationship will be more equal, the partnership will be real in every aspect of the family unit, including raising and attending to children. With this bill we are taking another step towards that equality.”

The bill now passes to the Knesset’s Labor and Social Welfare Committee for revisions.

Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

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