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FAMILY

Denmark agrees new rules for parental leave

A cross-aisle majority of parties in the Danish parliament supports a reform to current parental leave rules, providing for 11 weeks tagged or “earmarked” leave for each parent.

Parents in Denmark will be given 11 weeks each of
Parents in Denmark will be given 11 weeks each of "earmarked" parental leave under new rules. Photo by Picsea on Unsplash

The agreement was presented by the employment ministry on Wednesday evening.

Because the reform tags more of the statutory parental leave to each parent, fathers and other partners are effectively entitled to nine weeks’ more leave than under current rules.

Under the new rules, each parent is granted 24 weeks each of leave following the birth of a child, with a total of 11 weeks “earmarked” for each parent.

The set 11 weeks has been termed “earmarked” (øremærket) parental leave because the two parents cannot transfer the leave from one to another, thus enabling one parent to take more than the designated 11 weeks.

The mother has a right to four weeks’ pregnancy leave prior to giving birth and both parents can take two weeks’ leave immediately after the birth.

That leaves a remaining earmarked 9 weeks, which can be taken at any time withing the first year after birth but are tagged to each parent, as are the initial 2 post-birth weeks. If one parent does not use all of their 11 weeks, those weeks lapse.

This represents a significant departure from the model currently in place, which is as follows:

  • Pregnancy leave for the mother from four weeks prior to expected birth date.
  • Maternity leave for mother for 14 weeks following birth.
  • Leave for father or second parent for two weeks following birth (or at any time during first 14 weeks, subject to employer agreement).
  • 32 weeks of paid parental leave which can be shared between the two parents, with an optional further 32 weeks unpaid.

Parental leave (totalling a shared 32 weeks under the current system) can be held concurrently or separately, or a combination of the two, depending on how the parents want to organise their time off, childcare needs and so on.

As such, one parent can take as much as 32 weeks’ parental leave if the other does not take any (or only uses their two weeks’ leave post-birth).

Acting minister for employment and equality Mattias Tesfaye said the new agreement boosts equality in Denmark.

“Danish fathers will now take more parental leave, I’m in no doubt about that. I think this will be good for both mother and father, but also for the children, who are sometimes forgotten in this discussion,” Tesfaye said at a briefing to present the reform.

“I think it’s beneficial for children to be at home with mum and dad, or whoever it is in a modern family who has had a child,” the minister added.

The proposal, which has long been expected in a similar form to the one presented on Tuesday, has previously elicited a divided response since.  

Backers said that tagging leave to each parents promotes equality, while critics say it interfere with childcare decisions in the private sphere.

READ ALSO: Parental leave in Denmark: Government wants ‘most choice possible’ for families

The new rules also introduce equality between single fathers and single mothers with regard to the number of weeks of parental leave after the birth. In each case, the single parent receives 46 weeks of leave.

LGBT+ families are permitted to divide their leave between up to four parents.

Self-employed people, students and jobseekers are not encompassed by the rule requiring parental leave to be earmarked, and can transfer up to 22 weeks to the other parent.

The Social Democrats, Liberal, Social Liberal, Socialist People’s Party, Red Green Alliance and Alternative parties all back the proposal, enough to see it comfortably passed into law.

Negotiations over the reform took place due to a 2019 EU directive which requires member states to ensure a minimum of nine weeks’ earmarked parental leave for each parent by 2022.

The deal will come into effect in August 2022.

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SCHOOLS

Schooling: What you need to know when moving to Sweden with children

Sweden is often cited as one of the best countries in the world for raising children, but what do international parents need to know when planning a move here with their family? And can your children access schooling without a Swedish personal number?

two children on a swedish farm
From the age of six, every child in Sweden has access to free education. Photo: Ann-Sofi Rosenkvist/imagebank.sweden.se

Depending on your child’s age, there are a few things you should be aware of when planning a move to Sweden. If you’ve recently arrived in the country and didn’t have to apply for residence permits before entering, you and your family may not yet have their Swedish personnummer – the 10 or 12-digit personal number linked to everything in Sweden from healthcare to gym memberships. This guide will give you some advice on how you can sign your child up for school before they have received their personnummer.

Firstly, you may be wondering how the Swedish school system works. Sweden has three different types of school: the first type of school is voluntary preschool – förskola – for children from 1-6 years of age.

Starting at 6 years of age, schooling is compulsory, starting with förskoleklass, a one-year preschool class as a sort of bridge between preschool and primary school. Then, from age 7, primary or grundskola starts. Grundskola stretches from age 7-16 and is split into three stages: lågstadiet for 7-9-year-olds, mellanstadiet for 10-12-year-olds and högstadiet from 13-15. From the year a child turns 16, they can attend gymnasieskola (which is voluntary in theory, but many Swedish jobs require a gymnasie diploma) – lasting three years.

Some schools offer both grundskola and gymnasieskola, some only offer some of the grundskola stages, so check directly with any schools you are considering to see how many stages they offer if you want your child to stay in the same school for the majority of their schooling.

Check out the websites Skolverket and Skolinspektionen for more information on Swedish schooling.

How much does it cost?

The vast majority of schooling in Sweden is free, apart from förskola, where fees are heavily subsidised by the state and are income-based – costing a maximum of 1,510 kronor ($175) per child per month in 2021. Free school meals are also offered for all children. For teenagers at gymnasium level it is up to the municipality to decide whether school meals are free or have to be paid for.

Many independent schools – such as bilingual and international schools – are also free to attend. It’s also helpful to know that these schools aren’t allowed to charge for textbooks or school trips.

There are a few fee-paying private schools in Sweden, but not as many as in other countries.

If you’re moving to Sweden with teenagers, they might qualify for a study allowance (studiestöd). This is available to young people between 16 and 20 attending gymnasium full-time, and amounts to 1,250 kronor a month, paid out from September to June. It is possible in some cases to get this study allowance without a personal number, but you will need to contact the Swedish Board of Student Finance (CSN) directly to register. See more information here to find out if your child qualifies.

The type of school you need to apply for will depend on your child’s age. Photo: Maskot/Folio/imagebank.sweden.se

How do I apply?

Many schools, especially in the big cities, have long waiting lists, so it pays to sign your child up early. If you have a personnummer, the sign-up process is relatively simple – for förskola and grundskola, your municipality website will have an online sign-up service (e-tjänst) which you can sign in to with your BankID. If you’re still waiting for your personnummer, this process is a bit more difficult – you can still apply, but you will most likely have to apply via a paper form.

Even if your child does not yet have a personal number, they still have the right to attend school while they wait for their personal number application to be processed – you may have to supply documents showing that your family intend to stay in Sweden for an extended period of time before your child can access schooling – your municipality will be able to help you with this.

Contact your municipality if you are unsure of which form you should use and who you should send it to. They should be able to help you if you move to Sweden after application windows for schools in your area have already closed. If your child is old enough to attend grundskola or gymnasieskola, you may need to contact the school directly for advice on how to apply.

This is part of The Local’s series about what you need to know when moving to Sweden with children. If there are any particular topics you would like us to cover next, you can always email our editorial team at [email protected]. We may not be able to reply to every email, but we read them all and they help inform our coverage.

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