These days Danish fathers have the right to two weeks paternity leave together with the baby’s mother directly after the birth. Mothers are entitled to 20 weeks. Mothers and fathers can then split the last 32 weeks of parental leave between them.
By Katarina Blomqvist, 2006
Men have had the opportunity to take paternity leave since 1984. The rules have been changed a few times along the way. Today men have the right to two weeks paternity leave together with the baby’s mother directly after the birth. In addition, the mother and father can split the last 32 weeks of parental leave.
With women’s changing role in Danish society over the past 40 years, the position of men and the notion of masculinity and the male role have inevitably also been affected.
Expectations of men have changed since the 1960s and 1970s; the role of provider, or ‘breadwinner’ and father absent at work or behind a newspaper on the sofa is no longer tenable.
Men today participate in family life in a completely different way than was the case 40 years ago. The biggest transformation is probably the approach to fatherhood. In the 1970s men began to attend the birth of their children; today 95% of all Danish fathers are present at the birth. A father will now also take part in the care and upbringing of his children from their infancy, even though the mother still bears the main responsibility.
In 1984 men were given the right to a fortnight’s paternity leave immediately after the birth of the baby and the option to take the last 10 weeks of the 24-week-long parental leave. There was a high take-up rate and by 1990 approx. 53% of new fathers took paternity leave. The proportion has steadily increased and today approx. 58% take paternity leave to spend time with the mother and child. However, getting men to share parental leave has made slow progress; today still only a few percent do so. Men who have taken most leave together with their infant children come from the social group of public employees with a high level of education.
Parental leave extended
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None of the 52 weeks are earmarked specifically for the father, but he is entitled to 2 weeks leave from work within the first 14 weeks of the child’s life.
The mother is entitled to 4 weeks leave before and 14 weeks leave after the birth.
The parents can split the remaining 32 weeks as they choose.