Last year, 52,538 people took up parental leave. In 38,085 cases, the application was made by women, which accounts for 73 percent. However, under Belgian legislation, parental leave is open to both fathers and mothers who have children under 12 years of age.
Employment Minister Monica De Coninck and the Secretary of State for Families Philippe Courard (Francophone socialist) have launched a plan to add some more balance to the number. "Every father should have a proper choice and should be able to decide how he combines his work and family. This will enable each employer to count on employees with a balanced family life."
A change of mentality is needed, Ms De Coninck explains. At present, men deciding to take up parental leave are often confronted with raised eyebrows at the workfloor. "Men are perfectly able to provide care or to manage household tasks without being ridiculed", she explained, adding that employers can also benefit from encouraging parental leave as it will boost their company's image.
Ms De Coninck will start an awareness campaign by 2013 to reach employers. They will receive a kind of guidebook containing general information and recommendations for incentives to stimulate parental leave among male employees.