We recently met up with the Swedish singer from the band that my son used to play guitar in. All the band members are at that marrying and having babies stage, and (I’ll call him) Lars is no exception. Lars is a software engineer as well as trying to become a successful vocalist. His wife works as a teacher. Over a pleasant dinner and chat, I learned how easier it might be for a mother or father to ‘have it all’ in Sweden. Although Swedish workers pay high taxes (anyone earning over £32,000 will find they are paying between 49 – 60% tax), the benefits are amazing (I’ve used British currency for my blog, as it’s easier for me to understand!).
- Many Swedish hospitals have adjoining ‘hotels’ for new mothers and partners to stay in after the birth, whilst mother and baby are monitored by medical staff.
- New parents are entitled to 480 days of paid parental leave, even when a child is adopted. A mother can take the whole 15 months herself, or she can split it with the baby’s father. For 390 of those days, parents are entitled to nearly 80% of their normal pay. The remaining 90 days are paid at a flat rate. Those not in employment are also entitled to paid parental leave!
- Parental leave can be taken until each child turns 8, and parents can accumulate leave from several children. Outside the 480 paid days, parents have a legal right to reduce their hours up to 25% until their child turns 8.
- The Government provides a monthly child allowance of about £94 a month for the first child, and an extra family supplement of about £370 per month for a family with more than one child.
- Health and dental care is free for under 18’s.
- In some Swedish cities, parents pushing infants in prams can ride for free on public buses.
- When a child is sick, employees still get 80% of their pay if they have to stay at home. Temporary parental leave is available for up to 120 days per child per year for children under 12.
The UK has a 40% tax rate on earnings over £54,000 and a 45% rate on earnings over £150,000. However, compare the Swedish benefits for parents to when my own sons were new fathers. They were entitled to only 1 or 2 weeks of paternity leave, which is now paid at £139.58 per week or 90% of their average weekly earnings (whichever is lower)! Granted, health care is free over here for any age on the NHS if you cannot afford to pay privately, and our child allowance is £82.80 per month for the first child, with £54.80 per month for each subsequent child. However, for a father to be able to take over 7 months paid paternity leave or 120 days off to look after sick child is unheard of!
As of yet, Lars and his new wife are not parents, but when they are, it will be much easier for them to carry on with their careers and still have quality time with their children. When my sons were babies I stayed at home, as all of my earnings would have gone on paying a childminder. We had next to no disposable income, although we could pay all the bills. I did not return to full time work until my eldest son was 12. Sam took the regulation 2 weeks off as a new father. Perhaps we should have moved to Sweden!
Can parents really have it all? What do you think?