The analysis focused on the Estonian parental leave system and the aim was to evaluate how the current system allows parents to balance their work and family life and how much does it motivate fathers to use parental leave. This policy analysis is conducted for the benefit of improving the existing system, while taking into account the impact on employers, the state and society in general.
Despite the positive steps Estonia has taken towards two providers’ family model, the employment rate of mothers and the contribution of fathers are still low. Balancing professional and family life affects equal rights of men and women, child development, birth rates, employment and other areas. Therefore, the state should be interested in improving the possibilities and promoting the division of childcare among parents. The current system may not achieve those objectives; Estonia stands out in Europe with high gender inequality in the labour market.
“The main conclusion of the analysis is that successful balancing of professional and family life and increasing the participation of fathers is not possible without significant changes of parental leave system.” – Helen Biin
In order to increase the possibilities for balancing work and family life and the freedom of choice, the rigidity of the holiday and compensation schemes. For example, authors of the study recommend changing parental leave system so that it would be possible to use vacation and compensation over longer period of time or partly, while working. Giving the freedom to decide when and how to use the vacation could increase the number of fathers using parental leave. In addition, several other countries have proved successful examples where a part of the parental leave is reserved for fathers and mothers cannot use it.
While developing parental leave system, the interests and needs of employers have to be kept in mind, too. In order to help employers plan their work better, the notice period of long-term vacations should be extended. It is also necessary to find balance between the needs and desires of both employers and parents, and precise order should be defined about how long the vacation plans have to be agreed in advance and how flexible they are. Stereotypes regarding to fathers contribution to childcare and opinions about parents are also important when changing the system and the law.