Autorid: Kristel Tiits, Heliis Liiv
From 1 April 2022, when the system for taking child leave will change in the Employment Contracts Act, all parents of children under 14 years of age will be entitled to 10 working days of paid child leave per child under 14. It should be borne in mind, however, that these 10 working days are not allotted for each year but can be taken once starting from the expiry of the parental benefit until the child reaches the age of 14. During the calendar year when the child turns 14, the child leave is granted regardless of whether their birthday is before or after the leave.
While each parent previously had the right to take altogether three to six days of leave per year depending on the age of the child, the amendment will bring more equality between the parents, as from 1 April, both parents will have the equal rights of 10 working days of child leave, leave will no longer be calculated on a per-year basis. In other words, in families raising one child, the parents will receive a total of 20 working days’ of child leave (10 working days each) until the child reaches the age of 14. If there is more than one child in the family, both parents will receive 10 days of leave per child – so for example if there are four children in the family, each parent will receive a total of 40 days of leave. However, if a parent wishes to use all of their child leave days in the same year and they have more than three children, the maximum days of leave that can be used in a specific year is 30. The leave can be used in one instalment or on individual days until the child turns 14; the accounting for child leave on per-year basis will be discontinued. Legal guardians or foster parents are also eligible to use the child leave.
Compared to the previous system, a key change for parents is that now both parents will have individual rights to take the leave, which the parent can use at their discretion, taking into account the child’s needs. The amendment rules out a situation where the father wants to use the child leave, but it turns out that the mother has already used up the days of leave.
Accounting for child leave to start as of the end of the parental benefit
The right of a parent for 10 days of leave starts from the date of expiry of the parental benefit until the child turns 14 years of age (including the entire calendar year in which the child turned 14). The amount of the child leave benefit paid per calendar day is 50% of the daily rate of the parental benefit specified in the Family Benefits Act but shall not be less than the amount of parental benefit for one calendar day calculated based on the minimum income established by the Government of the Republic.
The Ministry of Social Affairs presented following example: if a person’s taxable income for social tax purposes in a given calculation period was 1200 euros, their daily child leave benefit in 2022 will be 30.78 euros. Based on the Family Benefits Act, the calculation would be as follows: the daily rate of the child leave benefit would be 1200 divided by 30 = 40 and 50% of that is 20 euros; however, according to the law the daily rate of child leave benefit cannot be lower than the daily minimum wage. The minimum wage in 2022 is 654 euros and the daily minimum is thus 30.78 euros. However, if a person’s income in the calculation period is totalled 3000 euros, their child leave benefit for one day would be 3000 divided by 30 = 100, of which 50% is 50 euros. The examples cover situations where the social-taxable income remains stable, and the person has one employer.
If one of the child’s parents is deceased or there is no entry in the Population Register concerning the father, the parent is entitled to up to 20 working days of child leave per child until the child reaches the age of 14, but in the case of multiple children under 14, not more than up to a total of 30 calendar days in a single calendar year. The employee’s annual holiday period will not be reduced in connection with the use of child leave; therefore, the employers should pay attention that they comply with the amendment and duly schedule all holidays as well as leave in the holiday schedule.
As an exception, legislation states that if an employee wishes to use more than 15 consecutive calendar days of child leave without marking it in the holiday schedule, the employer must be notified at least 30 calendar days in advance so that the employer would have reasonable time to make other arrangements for organising work. In other cases, the standard rule applies: an employee shall notify the employer of the use of holiday not indicated in the holiday schedule 14 calendar days in advance.
Will life become easier for parents?
Due to the fast pace of work, in the past many parents did not use up all their days of leave in a single calendar year and thus they forgo their paid leave, which would expire at the end of the calendar year. The amendment will now ensure that the days of child leave do not expire at the end of each calendar year and this will allow parents to decide at their own discretion when and how many days at once they will take.
It should be remembered that it would be a good idea to use up one’s unused child leave days from the previous period before 1 April, as they will not be transferred over when the amendment enters into force.
Example: a family is raising a child who will turn 14 after 1 April 2022. In this case, both working parents can use three working days of paid leave (between the two of them) up to 1 April, and after April 1, when the amendment enters into force, they will each have the right to 10 working days of leave (a total of 20 working days for both) in the same calendar year before the child turns 14.
The new child leave system will make life easier for employers, employees, and the Social Insurance Board. To apply for child leave, the parent will have to log into the Social Insurance Board site, where they will see their number of unused days of leave and can specify the period when they want to use the child leave. From the Board’s information system, information is sent straight to the employer. Thus, the employer will no longer need to apply for compensation for the benefit connected to the leave; the Social Insurance Board will pay the benefit directly to the parent.