Stricter rules proposed on Swedish parental leave

Parents may be forced to use their parental leave entitlement before their children turn four, if a new proposal to reform Sweden's famously generous system is accepted.

The government’s investigator, Karl-Petter Thorwaldsson, says the changes are needed to improve women’s conditions on the job market.

“The big risk with parental leave is that women become very unattractive because they can be away from work for long periods,” Thorwaldsson told Sveriges Radio on Saturday.

“Employers often see women as a big risk, as it may sometimes take fifteen years before they are available for full time work again. It is under these years that the big differences between men’s and women’s wages arise.”

With the existing system, parents have the right to take out 480 days. These may be used until the child has turned 8 or has finished the first school year.

Reforms to Sweden’s generous system are being necessitated by a looming case in the European Court, which Sweden is expected to lose. If that happens, any EU citizen who moves to Sweden after having worked for at least 240 days in any country of the union will have the right to Swedish parental insurance.

“If we can reduce the risk of other EU citizens making use of Swedish parental insurance, then that is a positive outcome” said Thorwaldsson.

Dagens Nyheter writes that Thorwaldsson also wants to encourage parents of young children to work full-time. Parents would, according to his proposal, have a chance of taking an extra ten days off work a year until the child has turned ten. During the first two days, they would receive 80 percent of their wages, and other days they would get nothing.

“These days are intended to be used when school and day-care are closed. I also want each parent to have two contact days per child and year,” said Thorwaldsson to DN.

Ninety-seven percent of parents take out their parental leave before the child turns four. When they have used up their parental leave entitlement, parents are still able to stay at home with their children during school holidays. They are currently entitled to receive 60 kronor per day for a maximum of 90 days per year. Thorwaldsson argues that the right to this money should be abolished.

Thorwaldsson’s proposal will be formally presented in September.

Sources: Svenska Dagbladet, Dagens Nyheter, Sveriges Radio