Spanish government to raise paternity leave to 16 weeks by 2021

The measures, which will be passed by a royal decree, will see the period granted to new fathers progressively rise over the next two years

A father dresses his son.
A father dresses his son.Getty

The Spanish government is planning to pass a number of measures related to equality that were taken off the table after Congress rejected Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez's 2019 budget plan. Among them is the progressive equalization of paternity leave with maternity leave, which will include an increase from the current five weeks to eight weeks this year for employees in both the public and private sectors.

The changes are included in draft legislation titled “Royal Decree Law on urgent measures to guarantee equal treatment and opportunities between women and men in employment and occupation,” a 28-page document that the government has distributed to the relevant social bodies for review. While there may be some modifications, government sources have stated that the issue of paternity leave will most likely be approved at this Friday’s Cabinet meeting.

Women currently have six weeks of compulsory leave in comparison to five weeks for men, which are voluntary

The government’s plan will see paternity leave rise to eight weeks in 2019, to 12 weeks by 2020, and by 2021, both parents will enjoy equal, non-transferable and paid leave for 16 weeks, which can be extended by two weeks per child in the case of a multiple birth.

Under Spanish law, women currently enjoy six weeks of compulsory leave, in comparison to five weeks for men, which are voluntary. There are a further 10 weeks of leave that either parent can take, but in practice this period is nearly always taken by women. According to Social Security data, less than 2% of men use this period.

The changes are similar to those agreed on by the Socialist Party (PSOE) government and left-wing party Unidos Podemos for inclusion in the 2019 budget. That plan was voted down, however, after Prime Minister Sánchez – who is currently governing in a minority – lost the support of Catalan pro-independence parties. Sánchez has since called a general election for April 28, but is trying to pass legislation such as this change to paternity leave before potentially losing office.

English version by Asia London Palomba.

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