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Parental Leave Extended to Twelve Months

By Ragnar Tómas

Photo: Golli.

Yesterday, in its final session before Christmas, Parliament passed new legislation extending parental leave to twelve months. Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir discussed the new law on Facebook, stating that it was a huge step forward for Icelandic families, and also an important step toward greater equality.

Christmas Break

Parliament convened for the final time before Christmas yesterday. During the final session, new legislation was passed extending parental leave from nine months to twelve. Following the session, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir briefly recounted the history of parental leave in Iceland on Facebook. Compared to other Nordic countries, Katrín wrote, Iceland adopted parental leave laws late and defined them narrowly, to begin with.

The parental leave laws that are in effect today were passed in 2000, wherein Parliament extended the leave from six months to nine in three phases: “Another twenty years passed without any extension, or until the time of our current government,” Katrín wrote.

For the past two years, the government has made changes to the parental leave system by increasing compensation on the one hand and by extending the leave with the new bill signed yesterday on the other. “Both of which are important steps in fighting child poverty and increasing the quality of life of families with children,” Katrín wrote.

A Brief History of Parental Leave

The history of parental leave in Iceland traces its origins to 1980. In that year, a new law guaranteed women a three-month maternity leave with six months’ worth of compensation. Mothers who worked from home were entitled to one-third of what working mothers received. In 1986, Parliament extended maternity leave to six months. The right of fathers to paternity leave was enacted in 1998. Otherwise, the parental leave system remained almost unchanged for twenty years, from 1980 to 1999, until the 2000 legislation that extended the leave to nine months.

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