Prague - Czech fathers may in the future be able to take an extra week off to stay at home with their partner and newborn baby and get paid 70 percent of their normal salary by the government.
That is one of the main points of a pro-family package proposed by Labour and Social Affairs Minister Petr Nečas and approved by the cabinet on Wednesday 19 November.
The draft welfare reform would also help women to get part-time work while being on parental leave, encourage firms to set up in-house childcare centres and boost the number of fathers staying at home while the mother goes back to work.
"Every individual should be perceived not as a part of the workforce, but also as a parent, who invests their time, energy and financial means to rearing children, who are our future human capital," said Nečas. He added that the bill is likely to pass as all coalition parties have expressed support.
More flexible parenting
Nečas wants to mainly support those who want to have children and work at the same time. This should be facilitated by more flexible system of welfare benefits for parents on leave and by tax relief for companies setting up childcare centres for their staff's children.
"Our goal is not to passively support families, but to create more friendly environment in which parents will find it easier to combine work and family life," said Nečas after the cabinet meeting.
Unlike some other countries, the Czech Republic offers a very limited range of childcare services. Nečas's proposal includes a bill that would further promote home childcare schemes, in which a group of parents take turns babysitting their children or mothers on parental leave earn extra money by setting up a small kindergarten in their home.
"One of the main themes of the Czech presidency of the EU should be supporting men's active involvement in childrearing and family," says Džamila Stehlíková, government Minister in charge of human rights and minorities.
If the approval procedure goes well, the welfare reform could come into force at the end of 2009.