With a vote of 60 in favor, one against, and one abstention, the Knesset plenum Wednesday approved a preliminary reading of a bill extending maternity leave to six months, but without addtional maternity leave payments. The bill, co-authored by former Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik (Kadima) and Knesset Member Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), is designed to double the current maternity leave from three months to six months.
The proposal was opposed by one MK, Dr. Michael Ben-Ari (National Union), who clarified from the Knesset podium that passing the bill would harm employment of women. He raised a scenario in which an employer barely capable of managing without his female employee for the current amount of maternity leave would simply avoid taking female employees in order to avoid absences of six months, while most male employees are absent no more than a month a year while they serve in the army reserves.
In juxtaposition to Ben-Ari's statements, MK Itzik said the bill is important because it give the woman the right to decide how much maternity leave she wishes to take. Itzik said the bill would send a social message and allow women to find the right balance in their own lives between motherhood and work, without worrying about being fired from work up to six months.