The government has approved a bill on birth and parental leave presented by Minister of Social Affairs Ásmundur Einar Daðason. The most notable change is the extension of parental leave from the current ten months to 12 months for children that are born, adopted or fostered permanently from January 1, 2021.
The main change proposed in the bill is an extension of parental leave from 10-12 months. Each parent will have a right to six months of leave, but parents can transfer one month between them so one parent will be able to take seven months and the other 5. The bill has gone through the government’s consultation gateway, and some changes were made during that process. The most controversial point of the bill, inciting the most comments in the Consultation gateway as well as public discourse, is parents’ equal rights to leave. Previous laws had stipulated four months of leave per parent, and two months they could divide between them according to their preference. While some criticised the bill for reducing flexibility for parents, others have praised it for encouraging men to take equal leave as women.
Before the consultation process, the proposed bill stated that parents forfeit the right to leave if they hadn’t used it before the child reached the age of 18 months, but the revised bill allows parents to take leave until the child is 24 months old, as before. Other stipulations in the bill include the transference of the right to parental leave if one parent can’t use their leave. The reasons including restraining orders, no right to parental leave in Iceland or their country of origin, or if the child’s paternity is disputed.
The bill is the result of the work of a committee the Minister appointed in 2019 to review the 20-years old laws on parental leave. The minister had stated that even though the rules were progressive at the time, it’s high time to review them. “We want Iceland to be a good place to have and raise children, and with this bill, we’re increasing the rights of parents to spend time with their children in the first months of their lives.” Projected costs of parental leave in 2021 will be 19.1 billion ISK, just under double the amount in 2017.