The bill to extend Dutch paternity leave from two days to five days has been deemed ‘too controversial’ by prime minister Mark Rutte (VVD). According to the prime minister, the bill is not the highest priority, nor is it a cheap policy.
The fight to extend the duration of Dutch paternity leave has been an uphill battle. Where mothers are guaranteed three months of paid leave by the government, Dutch fathers must make-do with two days of paid and three days of unpaid leave per child.
Many political parties present in the House of Commons , such as the PvdA, CDA, D66 and Groenlinks, have been lobbying for an extension in paternal leave for years. They believe three days is not nearly long enough to both spend time with the new-born and alleviate the responsibilities of the mother. D66 and Groenlinks are trying to extend the leave to three months. In comparison, the European average of paternal leave is about eight weeks.
Lodewijk Asscher, the leader of the PvdA, promised the bill would be passed by this month and would be fully implemented in 2019. However, the PM’s refusal to discuss the bill for an unknown period of time means that the bill, if agreed upon, would at the earliest be implemented in 2021, considering that social institutions need at least two years to prepare.
The PM’s comment shows that he and his party (VVD) are very much focused on forming a cabinet before discussing such contentious social issues. The current party contenders for government have not forced a debate regarding the bill, fearing it might change the atmosphere in the House of Commons.