According to a Eurobarometer survey, a high percentage of Czechs find it difficult to reconcile work and family life. The fertility rate remains low and many mothers of young children do not work due to the lack of childcare provision. 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.
Czech employment rates for both sexes are close to the EU average (74% of men compared to the EU average of 70.1% and 57.2% of women compared to 58.5% in the EU in 2011). The gender pay gap, at 25.5%, however is much higher than the EU average of 16.4% in 2010. 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 58.9%). At 1.4 children per woman in 2011, the fertility rate is at a low level.
Although 27.3% of Czechs responding to a 2008 Eurobarometer survey 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 2.5% of men and 9.4% of women.
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 1.4% of GDP in 2009, lower than the EU average of 2.3%. The at-risk-of poverty rate for children was reported 15.3% in 2011.
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. 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. Choice of the amount of parental allowance can be changed once in 3 month. 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.
Only approximately 2% of children under three attend day care facilities designed for children in this age group. However, 27.5% of children between two and three years of age attend day care facilities intended for children over three. Overall, the proportion of under threes attending formal daycare is around 10.5%The reason for the low numbers of children attending childcare facilities for the under threes is that in the 1990s, there was a wholesale closedown of care facilities for children under three: the 1043 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, 71% attended formal childcare in 2010/201, 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. 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 set up of company day care centres by helping businesses overcome the high cost and strict regulations. Thanks to this amendment, companies which wish to establish day care centres that comply with compulsory standards on 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’ programme: ‘Child group’ is a not-for-profit organisation offering an alternative type of childcare, based on the Austrian “Kindergruppe” model.
This text was last updated in September 2012.
Motivating companies to be more family-friendly and to increase gender equality
After many childcare facilities were closed in the 1990s, it became common for Czech women to spend many years on maternity leave. This had an enormous effect on their professional careers.
To encourage companies to implement more work-life balance measures, Gender Studies, a Czech NGO, has been organising a yearly ‘Company of the Year: Equal Opportunities’ contest since 2004. The competition seeks to motivate employers to implement programmes and policies targeting more women in management.
At a more general level, it also aims to influence attitudes to women, motherhood and work, since the prevailing opinion is that women have to choose either children or a career and that a mother has to stay home with her child for at least three years.
An open call for applications is announced at the beginning of each year and it gives companies over half a year to consider participation and fill in the questionnaire. Some companies are approached actively by the Gender Studies team and they are offered on-site presentation on the working principles and possible benefits.
In March 2011, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs set up the scheme ‘Work and Family Audit’. The initiative aims to motivate companies to be more family-friendly. The scheme is financed by the European Social Fund.