Changes in carer’s allowance and paternity leave
Ensuring equal opportunities for men and women and work-life balance have long been pressing issues on the European Union’s agenda, going hand in hand with the effort to allow fathers to be more involved in raising their children. One of the tools to promote these objectives is Directive (EU) 2019/1158 on work-life balance for parents and carers (the Work-Life Balance Directive), which should be implemented in the Czech Republic by early August next year. Some changes have been already reflected in the amendment to the Sickness Insurance Act, becoming effective from 1 January 2022.
One of the approved changes is the extension of the period for drawing paternity benefits following the birth of a child. Paternity benefits are mainly available to new fathers who have been covered by sickness insurance for a stipulated period of time and are stated in the child's birth certificate. So far, they could draw a week of paid paternity leave within the first six weeks after the birth of the child; now it'll be two weeks. At the same time, the deadline for drawing the benefits will be extended by the calendar days during which the child was hospitalised for the child’s or the mother’s health reasons during the first six weeks (for instance, if the child had to be in an incubator), meaning that paternity benefits may also be drawn after the six-week period (from the birth of the child) has expired. Also, paternity leave may be taken by another person (regardless of gender) who has taken a child into care substituting parental care; here, the condition is that the child must not have reached seven years of age at the date of being taken into care. In these instances, only the extension of the paternity leave period applies, not the extension of the deadline for drawing it. The amount of paternity benefits, i.e. 70 % of the daily assessment base per calendar day, remains unchanged.
The amendment also introduces changes in drawing long-term carer’s allowances. As before, the allowance shall be available to persons covered by sickness insurance who are caring for a person who has been hospitalised due to a serious health disorder and can be expected to need long-term care for at least 30 calendar days. However, now a four-day instead of a seven-day hospitalisation will be sufficient for the carer to qualify. The application deadline for a decision on the need of long-term care for the purpose of obtaining a carer’s allowance has been extended by eight days after the end of the hospitalisation. Furthermore, if care for the terminally ill requiring palliative and long-term care at home is concerned, it will be possible to draw carer’s allowances even without prior hospitalisation. Standard carer’s allowance will also be available to persons who do not live in the same household with the person being cared for.
The EU Work-Life Balance Directive should also make it easier to balance work and family responsibilities, e.g. by introducing the option of working from home, although employers will have the right to refuse this on reasonable grounds. In other EU countries, the right of parents of children under the age of eight to ask employers for a flexible distribution of working hours or the obligation to divide parental leave between both parents so that each parent has at least two months of parental leave non-transferable to the other parent may be an interesting novelty. In the Czech Republic, however, the use of either model is unlikely, as parents can already apply for a different working time arrangements, and both can take parental leave at the same time. Restrictions only apply to parental benefits which can only be paid to one of them. It thus seems that the extension of paternity leave will be the most significant change that the directive will bring to the Czech Republic.