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

According to a 2008 Eurobarometer surveypdf Choose translations of the previous link , a high percentage of Czechs find it difficult to reconcile work and family life. The fertility rate remains low (1.45 in 2013) 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 (77.0% of men compared to the EU-28 average of 70.1% and 60.7% of women compared to 58.8% in the EU in 2014). The gender pay gap, at 22.1% in 2013, however is much higher than the EU-28 average of 16.3% in 2013. The rate of inactive females who care for child under six years of age or incapacitated adults is the third highest in the EU (25.4% versus the EU-28 average of 15.1% in 2013). At 1.45 children per woman in 2013, the fertility rate is at a low level.

Although the rate of utilization of flexible forms of work and part-time employment is gradually increasing, it is still true that they are used less in the Czech Republic compared to the EU average. According to national data in the 2nd quarter of 2015, for example, the proportion of women working part-time was 10.2 % in the Czech Republic while the EU average was 32.8 % in 2014. Nevertheless, the part-time jobs are not the only alternative of flexible forms of work. Findings from abroad show that a high amount of part-time jobs has a negative impact on gender pay gap (GPG). Therefore, a better way seems to be in promoting higher flexibility of the labour market than to focus on part-time jobs only.

Supporting reconciliation of work and private life

Supporting reconciliation of work and private life, including the motivation to offer and use flexible forms of work, is one of the targets of the project of the Norwegian Funds which is being realized by the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic in the years 2013 – 2016. Within this project, a methodology for practical possibilities of support in balancing work and private life will be created for public administration bodies and other employers. The project will also bring a media campaign aimed at supporting flexible forms of work.

The newly adopted Governmental Strategy for Equality of Women and Men for years 2014-2020 is expected to have a positive impact on gender balance in the labour market. The Strategy provides a comprehensive framework for a broad gender equality agenda and includes ambitious goals, such as to decrease the gender pay gap to the EU average level by 2020 or to improve the position of women on the labour market through improvements in flexibility of working arrangements, parental leave possibilities and childcare provision. The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of the Czech Republic prepares also an ESF project “22 % TO EQUALITY”. The main focus of the project is on the practical support of the instruments and measures of the policies for equality of women and men on the labour market.

Financial support available to families

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 1.1 % of GDP in 2012, lower than the EU average of 2.2 %. The at-risk-of poverty rate for people below 18 years was reported at 19.5 % in 2014. In general Czech Republic developed a social protection system that is both effective and efficient in alleviating poverty risks: the general poverty risk is among the lowest in the EU and well below the EU-28 average of 27.7% in 2014, while social protection expenditure figures are also among the lowest. This has been achieved by designing and ‘extended social safety net’: social insurance schemes provide low replacement rates on average, while there is considerable redistribution towards the low income groups. Furthermore, family-related non-contributory benefits are provided on the basis of income testing and supplemented with social assistance benefits if necessary.

Paid parental leave used mostly by mothers

A particular strength of the Czech labour and parental leave policies are the sufficient economic incentives to work which includes a flexible parental leave scheme. Maternity leave can be taken for a total of 28 weeks: 6-8 weeks (usually 6 weeks) before the expected date of delivery and 20-22 weeks after giving birth. Maternity allowance is related to income, and for women earning up to 888 CZK, or about €32 (in 2016 901 CZK or €32) per calendar day it amounts to 70 % of their salary. This is partly reduced for higher incomes. The maximum amount of maternity allowance is 32,640 CZK, about €1,174 (33,120 CZK in 2016, or €1,191) per calendar month or 1,088 CZK per calendar day, about €39 (in 2016 it will be 1,104 CZK per calendar day, about €40).

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.

Parents can choose the length of leave and the amount of parental leave allowance paid; the longest period of parental leave can be taken for is until the child 48 months old, the shortest period is until the child is 24 months old. If parents opt for 24 months the maximum total amount of the allowance is 70 per cent of previous monthly earnings with a ceiling of CZK 11,500 [€419] per month; the ceiling for the 48 months option is CZK 7,000 [€255]. Parental allowance is paid to a parent until the youngest child in the family is 4 years old, and the maximum amount that can be paid over the whole period is 220,000 CZK (about €8,710).

The monthly amount of parental allowance is based on a daily assessment base, which is the same one used for calculating maternity and sickness benefits. When the daily assessment base is to be determined for both parents, the higher one is used for the final calculation. The amount of parental leave allowance can be changed once every 3 months. In the case the daily assessment base cannot be calculated for any parent, the parental leave allowance is paid at a fixed amount of 7,600 CZK (around €300) per month until the child is 10 months old.  After this period the amount paid is 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 comes with certain restrictions on their access to institutional childcare: children under the age of two years can attend a nursery or other facilities for pre-school children for a maximum of 46 hours per month. Children over the age of two can attend a nursery or similar facility without any limitation.

The legislation in the Czech Republic allows to fathers to draw parental leave and parental allowance too. Actually, the situation has not changed; the number of men drawing parental allowance is still quite low. This is largely influenced by gender stereotypes (e.g. childcare is often considered as "women's job") and gender pay gap which may limits the greater involvement of fathers on the shared care of children in the family.

Recently, the Czech republic has been addressing the problem by suggesting to shorten the possible period of drawing a parental allowance to make it more flexible than nowadays and abolish restrictions on access to institutional childcare during a drawing of parental allowance.

The Czech republic also encourages the establishment of paternity benefit – so called after-birth paternal care in duration of one week for the care of mother and child in the first weeks of age. This benefit is intended only for person who participates in a health insurance. In the long term it can be assumed that the greater involvement of fathers in caring for newborn encourage their involvement in the field of active fatherhood, which will, inter alia, help to reduce stereotypes when a child is cared only by mother and thus will lead to greater equality between men and women.

Another factor influencing the duration of parental allowance is especially in connection with the fact that in the case of children older than two years parents can work is the issue of lack of affordable childcare services:

Expanding the range of childcare services for pre-school children

In the 1990s, there was a massive closure of care facilities for children under 3 years of age, without adequate compensation. The trend was accompanied by strong support of domestic care for small children by their parents. The main reason was the interest in child health protection. 26 % of children under 3 years of age attend day care facilities  and only 1-2 % of these children attend special care facilities for children under 3 years of age; the rest, 25 % of children between 2 – 3 years of age attend day care facilities for children over 3 years, which are not specialized for these children (statistics of Ministry of education, youth and sport of the Czech Republic).

As for children aged between three and six (6 being the school age), according to Eurostat data, 76 % attended formal childcare in 2013. Despite this quite high number, supply still does not meet the demand: more than 50,000 applications for childcare were not accepted in 2014/2015.

As a result, the capacity of childcare facilities for small children is insufficient in the Czech Republic at the present time.  The lack of pre-school care has impact on participation of parents on labour market, particularly on women. Thus many mothers (re)enter the labour market when their children are four years old. 

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.

Children´s Groups Act

In January 2014 a Children´s Groups Act was approved. Children´s group is a new type of childcare service on non-commercial basis. The founders of children's groups can be both private companies and public institutions (public authorities, municipalities, regions), NGOs, foundations and other entities. Children´s groups are providing care for children from one year of age to the age of compulsory school attendance. The Act sets a standard of hygienic requirements for spatial and operational conditions. Increasing number of children in the child group means increasing hygienic requirements. The development of child groups will be enhanced through funding from the European Social Fund.

Concerning public kindergartens, in 2015, an increase of the capacity of preschool institutions registered in the school register is supported both by European and national resources. The Fund for the Capacity Development of kindergartens and Primary Schools amounts in total 1.5 billion CZK.

Regarding other measures to expand opportunities for participation of children in preschool education, an amendment to the Education Act was approved in March 2015, which, among other things, will make primary school preparatory classes available to more children. At present, a draft amendment is also being prepared to introduce compulsory final year of pre-school education. Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports plans to enable the entrance to kindergarten for children from the age of 2 years (nowadays, kindergarten is in principle open for children from 3 years of age). The Ministry also plans guaranteed places for all children older than four years from 2017 and for all children older than three years from 2018.

The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs also plans to support a childcare service called “micro-nurseries”. Micro-nursery is a new planned type of care (inspired by the existing concept of ‘Tagesmütter’ in Germany), which is designed for children from six months of age to four years. To ensure an individual care it is a service for a small group of maximum four children.

This country profile was last updated in March 2016.

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.