Woman at a radio station (Photo by Jeroen van Loon)

The Truth about Paternity Leave Rights in the Netherlands

Sometimes, in the fight for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), we forget to look in our own backyard. The debate on paternity leave in the Netherlands continues to be a hot-button topic, especially with the upcoming elections. Whereas maternity leave is considered to be an inalienable right, many people are divided or even undecided about the same rights for fathers. In trying to maintain a dialogue about this subject, it’s clear that a political, cultural and economic shift is needed in our country.

A Baffling Overview of Dutch Paternity Leave Rights

The benefits and entitlements we enjoy in the Netherlands seem to be what dreams are made of – at least for a major part of the global population. From having guaranteed access to health care ranging to simply having the freedom to choose who we want to be with. Yet the fine print is often overlooked. 

Did you know that new fathers in the Netherlands are only entitled to two days of paternity leave? Within OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries, the Netherlands falls in the lower rung of fathers’ leave entitlements across the world. A woeful ranking indeed, which departs from the perceived picture of the Netherlands: a progressive country and among the world’s staunchest allies on gender equality. 

graphic fathers' leave by OECD 2015
Source: Adapted from http://www.oecd.org/social/parental-leave-where-are-the-fathers.pdf

Who Benefits from Increased Paternity Leaves? 

Everyone. Contrary to popular opinion, this topic does not concern only men. After all, families are made out of several people who are affected by the rights granted to any of the parents.

  • Improved work-life balance for mothers as the multiple burden of juggling child/ home care and work is reduced. Opportunities for rest, leisure and career growth become more achievable.
  • Closer bonds between fathers and children as time spending with each other increases.  And, with a solid support system, work policies and legislation – fathers would be given the opportunity to cut back on working hours. 
  • Improved relationships and communications within partners thanks to a scheme that distributes unpaid child care evenly, and sets the stage for open dialogue and negotiations to take place.
  • Children grow into well-rounded individuals and reap the benefits of a supportive and loving environment.
  • Employers profit from a happy workforce, with high employee satisfaction rates and productivity. 

You Can Make a Difference by Speaking Up

Familiarise yourself with Dutch political parties if you’re a voter in the Netherlands. Parties that score the highest on paternity leave are more likely to advance everyone’s aspirations for gender equality. Before you head to the polling booth on 15 March, interact with the politieksekswijzer (available in Dutch), or check out the Feminist Club Amsterdam’s advice (in Dutch and English).

Start a dialogue on paternity leave with your family, friends, community or at the work place. Check out the “MenCare Parental Leave Platform: 10 ways to leave gender inequality behind and give our children the care they need” or view and share our “Raising Boys to be Men Who Care” two-minute animation.

Start at home. Pitch in the housework or praise your partner’s efforts to help out. Ditch the ‘blues’ and the ‘pinks’ and “paint a rainbow” in your day-to-day life. By starting small and involving the people around you, you’ll find out soon that it helps to make a national case for paternity leave rights. 

See also

State of the World Fathers 2017


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