Last Saturday Morgunbladid reported that Andri Teitsson, CEO of KEA, Kaupfélag Eyfirðinga, resigned in order to take paternity leave. The board of KEA found it “unfortunate” that Andri wanted to take a long leave. Andri has a right to nine months since he and his wife are expecting twins. They already have four children, all under the age of eight.
Benedikt Sigurðarson, chairman of KEA said that it was a complicated matter since the CEO is the only employee of KEA.
Andri said that people were uncomfortable with the fact that he would be away for a long time. He added that he was determined to take a long paternity leave instead of following the precedent of some executives who take a week and a week at a time.
The issue has provoked a strong response in Iceland and precipitated discussions on equal rights issues.
“It is unfortunate that a man in this position, receives this kind of a response when he is going to take paternity leave”, said Margrét María Sigurðardóttir, director at the Centre for Gender Equality, in an interview with Morgunbladid. She continued to say that this shows that men are experiencing what women have always known, having a child impacts your career.
Ingólfur V. Gíslason, a manager at the Centre for Gender Equality, says that according to research that he is doing, employers are positive about paternity leave. He says that there is “not much negativity – 85% of fathers would not be using their right to paternity leave if there was”.
According to the State Social Security Institute the monthly payment to a parent on full leave is 80% of the average pay of the parent the last 24 months.
Payments to parents during the first six months of the year averaged ISK 170,000. Fathers on paternity leave averaged ISK 229,000 but mothers averaged ISK 153,000.
In the spring of 2000, a new maternity and paternity law was passed allowing fathers to take up to 6 months of leave. The law allows three months leave for the mother, three months for the father and three months for either mother or father.
No cap was put on payments so for example a CEO making ISK 20 million a month would have been eligible for 80% of ISK 20 million for up to six months.
The fund almost went bankrupt and in 2004 when expenditures were ISK 1.25 billion in excess of revenues.
On January 1, 2005, a new law took effect that capped the payments. Monthly payments can now not exceed ISK 480,000 or 80% of ISK 600,000.
The average age for parents the first six months of the year was 30 years old.