• Kyodo

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Japanese lawmakers enacted a law Thursday giving fathers more flexibility when taking paternity leave soon after childbirth.

The House of Representatives passed a bill to revise the law on child care leave to create a special plan allowing fathers to take a total of four weeks off within eight weeks of a child’s birth. And, if they want, they can divide the period into two. The House of Councilors earlier approved the bill.

The program, expected to be launched in October next year, will also allow fathers to give shorter prior notice to their employers of their intention to take the leave — from four weeks to two weeks.

Up to 80% of their salary will be guaranteed through the child care leave plan.

Many fathers wish to take child care leave right after their wives give birth, a time when mothers often tend to suffer from postnatal depression, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

In fiscal 2019, only 7.48% of men working in the private sector took child care leave, while 83.0% of women did so, it said. The government is now aiming to lift the ratio for men to 30% in 2025.

Welfare experts say Japan leads the world in paid-leave provisions for fathers. But the nation’s male-centered corporate culture, which favors those who put work before family, is blamed as a deterrent for doing so by many men.

The revised law will also oblige companies to inform employees of child care leave systems and confirm their intention to use them starting in April next year.

Companies with more than 1,000 employees will be required to announce the status of employees taking child care leave from April 2023.

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