German government to extend paternity leave

Family minister Ursula von der Leyen has unveiled plans to extend paternity leave, but is likely to hit resistance from her own Christian Democrat Union, some of whom deride the idea of men taking time out for the family as "nappy leave."

German government to extend paternity leave
Fatherly loving care to be promoted. Photo:DPA

Currently, in order for a couple to get a combined paid leave of 14 months, the secondary carer, usually the father, has to take at least two months off work to care for the child.

Van der Leyen now seems ready to make this compulsory element longer, she suggested in an interview with weekly news magazine Der Spiegel.

During a discussion about equality, she said, “Equality is achieved in my mind, when men are no longer called softies when they look after their babies, or their aging father. Men can me much more than the money-earner who sits in the office until eight every night.”

She said two thirds of German men want to be more than the bread-winner for their children, but that 80 percent fear losing out at work if they take a couple of months out to stay at home.

When asked whether the two-month paternity element of the parental leave system could be expanded, she said, “I could imagine more months. And I think the time will be right during the next parliamentary period, for the paternity component to be extended.”

The compulsory aspect of it was simply to strengthen the case of those men who feared problems at work should they decide for childcare, she said.

The question of how long men will have to take off work in order for the family to qualify for the parental leave package, will decided during the discussions which von der Layen said she was sure would ensue.