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Czech Republic: Supporting parental care in early childhood and protecting children's rights

According to a Eurobarometer survey, a high percentage of Czechs find it difficult to reconcile work and family life. The fertility rate remains low (1.5 in 2012) and many mothers of young children do not work due to the lack of childcare provisions. Government measures supporting families include providing long and flexible leave schemes for parents of young children and expanding the range of childcare services for pre-school children.

Low maternal employment

Czech employment rates for both sexes are close to the EU average (74.2% of men compared to the EU average of 70% and 58.2% of women compared to 58.5% in the EU in 2012). The gender pay gap, at 22% in 2012, however is much higher than the EU average of 16.2% in 2011. The employment rate for mothers with children under six years of age is the third lowest in the EU (39.6% versus the average of 59.1% in 2012). At 1.45 children per woman in 2011, the fertility rate is at a low level.

Although 27.3% of Czechs responding to a 2008 Eurobarometer surveypdf Choose translations of the previous link  on family life considered part-time work by one of the parents to be the most practical way of combining work and childcare, few actually work part-time – only 2.8% of men and 9.5% of women in 2012.

Financial support available to families includes an income-tested one-off birth grant of 13,000 CZK (ca. €490), and a child allowance which is also income-tested and varies between 500 and 700 CZK (ca. €19–27) per month, depending on the child's age. Overall, spending on family policies amounted to 1.2% of GDP in 2011, lower than the EU average of 2.2%. The at-risk-of poverty rate for people below 18 years was reported at 18.8% in 2012.

Paid parental leave used mostly by mothers

Maternity leave begins at the earliest eight weeks — and usually six weeks — before the expected date of delivery and lasts for a total of 28 weeks. Maternity allowance is related to income, and for women earning up to 830 CZK, or about €33 (in 2013 863 CZK or €34) per calendar day it amounts to 70% of their salary. This is partly reduced for higher incomes. The maximum amount of maternity allowance is 30,810 CZK, about €1,232 (31,740 CZK in 2013, or €1,269) per calendar month or 1,027 CZK per calendar day, about €41 (in 2013 it will be 1,058 CZK per calendar day, about €42).

Following the period of maternity leave, Czech parents are entitled to parental leave.  After parental leave, there is no guaranteed return to exactly the same job but the employer is obliged to offer a position corresponding to the parent's qualifications up to the child’s third birthday. According to 2011 data from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of the Czech Republic, only 1.8 % of Czech fathers take parental leave. 

Parental allowance is paid to a parent until the youngest child in the family is 4, up to a maximum amount of 220,000 CZK (about €8,710).

A parent may decide on the amount of parental allowance and thus the period of paid parental leave. The monthly amount of parental allowance is based on a daily assessment base, the same one that is used for calculating maternity and sickness benefits. When the daily assessment base can be determined for both parents, the higher one is used for calculation. The choice of the amount of parental allowance can be changed once in 3 months. In the case that the daily assessment base cannot be calculated for any parent, parental allowance is paid at a fixed amount of 7,600 CZK (around €300) per month until the child reaches 10 months.  After this period, it is paid at 3,800 CZK (around €150) per month until the child is 48 months old.

Parental allowance is not means-tested. Parents can work while receiving parental allowance, but this carries with it certain restrictions on their access to institutional childcare: children under the age of two years can attend a nursery or other facility for pre-school children for a maximum of 46 hours in a month. Children over the age of two can attend a nursery or similar facility without any limitation.

Expanding the range of childcare services for pre-school children

Approximately only 5% of children under three receive formal childcare. The reason for the low numbers of children under three attending childcare facilities is that in the 1990s there was a wholesale closure of care facilities for children under three: the 1,043 nurseries operating in 1990 had been reduced to 46 in 2010. The reason for the closures was health and safety concerns. There are no plans to rebuild facilities for the under threes. As a result, the capacity of childcare facilities for small children is insufficient in the Czech Republic at the present time.

As for children aged between three and six (6 being the school age), according to Eurostat data, 74% attended formal childcare in 2011, but there is large discrepancy between this figure and the national data: according to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports in the Czech Republic, 84.7% of children aged three to six receive formal childcare in 2010/2011. Despite this quite high number, supply still does not meet the demand: more then 40,000 applications for childcare were not accepted in 2010/2011.

Recently, the government has been addressing the problem by expanding the range of individual non-parental childcare services for pre-school children so that parents are not dependent solely on formal pre-school facilities.

In January 2012 an amendment to the Education Act came into effect. Among other things, it aims to facilitate the setup of company day care centres by helping businesses overcome the high cost and strict regulations. Thanks to this amendment, companies that wish to establish day care centres that comply with compulsory standards of hygiene and staff qualifications will be granted a subsidy amounting to 60% of the day care centre operating costs.

In August 2012, draft legislation was approved by the government relating to the ‘Child Group’ program: ‘Child group’ is a not-for-profit organization offering an alternative type of childcare, based on the Austrian “Kindergruppe” model.

This country profile was last updated in February 2014.

Creating a functional system to protect Children rights

By approving the National Strategy to Protect Children’s Rights (Resolution No. 4 dated 4 January 2012), the government of the Czech Republic has committed itself to creating a functional system to protect consistently all children’s rights and to meet their needs by 2018.

The National Strategy to protect rights sets the basic principles for the system to function and sixteen areas of activities to gradually fulfil this objective. The National Strategy to Protect Children’s Rights also stated that the key activities will be achieved, monitored and evaluated on the basis of action plans, which define:

• activities, fulfilment indicators, time schedules

• responsibility for fulfilment

• human and technical resources to achieve them

• financial costs of the performance of individual activities, funding resources and the impact on public budgets

• legislative changes required to achieve the objectives

• the monitoring mechanism required to evaluate the performance progress, and the identification of fulfilment deficiencies, if any

• method of involvement of civil society and children in the performance of the activities

The submitted Action Plan for the Fulfilment of the National Strategy to Protect Children’s Rights sets tasks for the period from 2012 – 2015. The action plan will be implemented during a complicated economic period. Its objective, therefore, is to make the most of current system resources (human, material and financial) to improve the system to protect children’s rights and care of vulnerable children. The individual activities are designed so that they do not put additional demand on public budgets, or that they utilize funding from European Union structural funds, European Economic Area financial mechanisms and other funding from sources beyond public budgets.

With the implementation of individual tasks, intensive collaboration between key departments alongside close cooperation with regional and municipal authorities and with civil society is envisaged.