Changes to Lithuania’s generous parental leave policy set to become more inclusive for fathers

– Lithuania is 4th among 41 OECD and EU countries by the duration of maternal leave
– The country ran an online poll to help select the best way to include fathers into raising children
– Starting a family is among the main reasons for Lithuanian expats to return home
– 2019 was the first year during the country’s independence when it registered positive net migration

For knowledge economy workers, choosing a country of residence boils down to a slew of factors. These range from income prospects and career opportunities to the social benefits a country can offer. Lithuania has for many years provided one of the most generous packages for mothers, with paid leave of up to 24 months. The employer is obliged to keep the position and re-hire the person after the leave is over, even if it takes the full two years. Now, by tweaking its policy according to the new EU Work-Life Balance Directive (which calls for more gender equality, childcare included), the Baltic country is looking for the best way to include fathers in this scheme.

The EU Directive 2019/1158 is set to change requirements for parental leave in all member states. At the moment, parents have a right to at least four months of unpaid parental leave per parent with one non-transferable month. The new Directive makes two months non-transferable between parents and mandates that they are paid. EU member states are required to bring laws and regulations compliant with the new Directive by August 2022.

Currently, Lithuania has one of the most family-friendly maternity leave regulations in Europe. However,  in the majority of cases, mothers take the bulk of the parental leave term, which results in larger gaps in their employment. The inclusion of fathers in childcare, compliant with the EU Work-Life Directive, is set to restore the balance, as it would provide better conditions for mothers to reintegrate into the workforce quicker. This is an important step in a country that already ranks 1st for the Percentage of Women in the Workforce, according to IMD World Talent Ranking.

The country’s Ministry of Social Security and Labour has offered the public two options of reforming the way parental leave is handled in Lithuania. From June 29 to July 15 ran an anonymous poll, set to help make the best decision.

The first alternative leaves the total duration of the paid leave at 24 months, with 2 months reserved for the mother, and another 2 – for the father. If one of the parents forgoes his part of the leave, the total duration is decreased to 22 months. The sum of benefits during the non-transferrable months would be equal to 78% of previous pre-tax salary. During the first year, the sum of benefits would be equal to 45% of pre-tax salary. During the second year, it would drop to 25% of pre-tax salary.

The second alternative decreases the total duration of parental leave to 18 months, with 2 months reserved for the mother, and another 2 – for the father. Despite having a shorter length, this option would actually result in a more significant total sum of benefits paid. During the non-transferrable months, the sum of benefits would be equal to 78% of previous pre-tax salary, while during other months it would be equal to 60% of previous pre-tax salary.

Both alternatives foresee the possibility for the parent who is on leave (except for the 2 non-transferable months) to earn additional income. Such income would have no impact on the sum of social benefit payments, provided that the income and the benefits together do not exceed 100% of the pre-leave salary.

In addition, in both cases, parental leave benefits could be transferred to one of the grandparents (as it can be today). This excludes the non-transferable months reserved for each parent.

The fact that Lithuania offers generous social benefits to young families, including 2-year maternal leave and state-compensated day-care centres is an important factor for expat Lithuanian families that decide to move back to Lithuania.

“The decision to start a family often serves as an impetus to move back to Lithuania. From enquiries we receive, a common portrait is couples in their late 20s and early 30s on the verge of becoming parents. Even though they feel settled abroad with jobs in competitive fields like IT and Finance, the decision to have kids often leads them home,” says Eglė Adašiūnaitė, Head of Work in Lithuania, the country’s talent attraction agency. “Ultimately, social benefits help, but the most important factor is the desire to raise children in a culturally familiar environment.”

2019 was the first year in the independent country’s history when it saw positive net migration (+10 000 people). This influx partially came from skilled Lithuanians returning from Western European economies, where a lot of them sought studies and careers.