Information in brief: Family leaves

Kela carries out research to analyse and provide information on the Finnish social security system and the way it functions. This page provides a brief overview on family leaves.

Fathers’ share of family leaves is rising slowly

Despite several parental leave reforms, mothers still take the majority of parental leaves. In 2020, mothers accounted for 90% and fathers 10% of all maternity, paternity and parental allowance days. The share of fathers among parental leave takers is one of the lowest in the Nordic countries.

Fathers have an earmarked parental leave entitlement of nine weeks, and nearly 75% of fathers do use at least some of their entitlement. The majority take 1–3 weeks around the time of the birth of their child, coinciding with the maternity leave. Only 45% of fathers use the additional paternity leave available after the parental leave is over. The take-up of paternity leave is higher than average among middle- and high-income earners, fathers with high educational attainment, and the spouses and partners of mothers with high educational attainment. 

Conversely, fathers who are without work, on low income, or have low educational attainment are less likely to take any earmarked leaves. About four percent of fathers take some parental leave after the maternity leave, which is available to either parent. Nearly one in four fathers do not take any family leave at all.

A planned family leave reform is set to produce a comprehensive overhaul of the parental leave system. It is proposed that the terms ‘maternity leave’ and ‘paternity leave’ would no longer be used, and the parental leave entitlement would be shared equally between the parents.

Parents can give up some of their parental leave entitlement in favour of the other parent. Parents’ combined paid leave entitlement will be extended from about 12.6 months to 14.4 months. The reform is scheduled to go into effect in autumn 2022.

More on family leave use among fathers:

Share of maternity, paternity and parental allowance recipients with the minimum rate of allowance increased in 2020

In 2020, recipients of the lowest rate of maternity, paternity or parental allowance paid on account of some other reason than employment accounted for 14.9% and 3.8% of all mothers and fathers, respectively. The corresponding shares in 2019 were 12.5% and 3.4%. Among mothers starting their maternity leave in 2020, the share of mothers with the minimum rate of allowance was 16.4%.

In 2020, the minimum rate was 28.94 euros per weekday, or about 723 euros per month. The rise in unemployment and furloughs due to the pandemic in 2020 may have contributed to the higher share of recipients of the minimum rate of allowance.

Since the beginning of 2020, the earnings-related allowances have been linked to annual income typically calculated on the basis of the 12 months preceding the leave, with the exception of the month immediately before the leave. Previously, the allowances were usually based on taxed earnings, information on which could be 1-2 years old.


Learn more:

Home care a popular option among parents of small children

A majority of parents believe that children should be at least 1.5 to 2 years old when they enter early childhood education outside the home. Few are prepared to place their child in out-of-home care when the earnings-related parental leave ends, at which point the child will be about 12 months old.

Parents are not ready to give up the child home care allowance, but some might accept a shorter duration of payment. Nearly 90% of parents receive at least some child home care allowance payments.

Around 2019-2020, Kela interviewed parents about family leaves and how parents share them. The parents were also asked about whether they might be interested in more flexible parental leaves. For instance, one fourth of mothers and one third of fathers were interested in a parental leave that would combine part-time work and part-time leave, leaving a certain portion of the parental leave entitlement until a later time.

More on the surveyed parents’ views: 

Mothers with a weaker labour market status receive child home care allowance longer than average

Mothers make up the majority of child home care allowance recipients. In 2020, 92% of the recipients were women and 8% men. Men’s share of the recipients has increased slowly. On average, mothers receive the allowance for a total of 13 months. However, the share of long recipiency durations (over 13 months) has decreased in recent years.

For mothers, a good labour market status was a predictor of a quicker return to work. Nearly 50% of highly educated or economically active mothers returned to work by the time their child was 1.5 years old, while among non-economically active mothers only one in five did so. A higher rate of allowance, for example in the form of a supplemental payment from the municipality, made a quick return to work less likely.

Among mothers with more than one child, it was also more common for mothers with a comparatively weaker labour market status to use the child home care allowance as an intermediate benefit between two parental leave periods. Long periods of time spent on family leave can erode women’s employment outlook, careers and salaries and ultimately their pensions. 

The uneven take-up of family leaves between mothers and fathers weakens women’s labour market status indirectly. Family leaves have direct costs for employers, for most of which they are compensated, but certain costs such as hiring replacement workers are not covered.

Since 2017, employers have been eligible for a family leave compensation of 2,500 euros if a female employee takes maternity or parental leave and continues to be paid by the employer for at least one month. In 2020, family leave compensations were paid to a little over 4,100 employers at a total cost of 48.6 million euros.


More on the impact of the child home care allowance on mothers’ employment status:

A wide range of social benefits for families with children

Kela provides the following benefits for families with children: 

  • maternity, special maternity, paternity and parental allowance
  • child care allowances
  • child benefit
  • maternity grant
  • child maintenance allowance. 

Total expenditure on family benefits paid out by Kela in 2020 came to 2,815.0 million euros. At 1,371.1 million euros, child benefits were the largest single category in 2020. A total amount of 931.4 million euros was spent on maternity, paternity and parental allowances, while the expenditure on child care allowances came to 340.2 million euros.


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Contact information

  • Anneli Miettinen, Senior Researcher, tel. 050 559 9984
  • Miia Saarikallio-Torp, Senior Researcher, tel. 050 324 3311
  • Hanna-Mari Heinonen, Researcher, tel. 050 348 0372
  • Tapio Räsänen, Researcher, tel. 050 302 9292
  • Siru Keskinen, Coordinator (Statistics), tel. 020 634 1372
  • Ella Sihvonen, Senior Researcher, tel. 020 634 1353


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