To break gender stereotypes and promote gender equality, many countries give both parents equal opportunities for parental leave. Although both fathers and mothers are eligible for parental leave and parental leave benefits in Estonia, the proportion of fathers taking parental leave is very small, being only around 2% of benefit receivers.
The aim of the study is to find out the reasons behind such a small number. The study ascertains pros and cons of taking parental leave by father, the attitudes of employers in the matter, and the experiences of both parties. It also investigates how the decision about who is going to take the leave is made in the family and gives suggestions for policy making.
Making the decision
According to the study, not all fathers are aware of their right to take the leave and sometimes, lack of information on the details of parental leave benefit can cause problems for families. For those who are informed, economical considerations are only one side of the coin, especially since in the eyes of society, staying home with the child while the mother is working is not laudable example of father role. Usually, the decision of which of the parents will take the parental leave is decided together between the mother and the father and depends on their value judgements and priorities.
Main pros and cons:
- Mothers’ wish to work or study
- Mother needs help at home
- Father’s wish to be with a child
- Material considerations
- Break from work/change of job
- Children need the mother/ breastfeeding
- Fear of failure
- Material considerations
- Work obligations
- Fear to put the career into danger/to lose job
- Mother wants to stay at home
- The society does not understand
- Losing independence
The fathers who had stayed home with the child/children were satisfied with their decision and experience, and the overall attitude towards fathers taking parental leave is positive.
Employers’ attitudse towards fathers’ parental leave is also generally positive, as replacement must be found on either case. However, the employers cannot predict what the consequences for the labour market would be if fathers on parental leave were as likely as mothers on parental leave.
The study reveals that it is in the interest of both parents and employers if the role of the parent as the caretaker of the child as well as the worker can be combined. To make it possible for both parents to share these roles, possibilities to take parental leave and receive parental leave benefits should be more flexible.