“Parental leave provides new mental tools for working life as well”

The majority of City of Helsinki employees are able to coordinate their work and private life well, indicates the City’s staff survey. Project Planner Arttu Hautala encourages all fathers to take family leave.
Father and his child in the park.
Project Planner Arttu Hautala will be taking care of his first-born daughter at home until the end of the summer. Photo: City of Helsinki

Project Planner Arttu Hautala from the City of Helsinki started his parental leave at the turn of the year. He will be taking care of his first-born daughter at home until the end of the summer.

“My spouse and I decided to split our parental leave fifty-fifty. Actually, it was a rather obvious choice for us,” Hautala says.

Hautala’s work community was very supportive of his parental leave. His work projects were nearing completion, so staying home was an easy choice from that perspective as well.

“My supervisor had a really positive attitude, and we had talked about this early on. My co-workers encouraged me and were happy for me that taking such a break is possible,” Hautala comments.

Many people share Hautala’s experience. Last year, the City of Helsinki conducted an anonymous survey to chart staff members’ experiences regarding equality and non-discrimination in their workplace. Up to80% of the respondents felt that they are able to coordinate work with private life very well or moderately well. However, among gender minorities this percentage was smaller: some 60% felt that they are able to coordinate work with private life well or moderately well.

“Staff wellbeing is important to us, so it is great to see that our employees have their work and leisure time in balance. As the largest employer in Finland, we want to serve as a pioneer, so this is a gratifying result,” comments HR Director Petri Lumijärvi

The City’s other staff survey, Fiilari, also revealed that employees deem the coordination of work and private life to be one of the most significant factors affecting the quality of working life, along with the meaningfulness of work, good management and having a good community spirit at work.

Women and men took childcare leave in equal measure

In the City’s equality survey, 7% of men, 5% of women and 7% of non-binary persons reported having taken family leave within the last two years. This anonymous equality and non-discrimination survey was taken by more than 4,600 of the City’s 37,500 employees.

The most challenging situations in coordinating work and private life may have to do with the stage of life of very young children or caring for one’s own elderly parents. The uneven distribution of family leave between the parents continues to be one of the most significant issues related to gender equality in working life. By Nordic standards, Finnish fathers are near the bottom in terms of taking parental leave. One fifth of Finnish fathers choose not to take any family leave.

In light of the aforementioned, the amount of family leave taken by City employees can be seen as very good. Women and men took childcare leave in nearly equal measure. Another particularly delightful observation made from the results was that the nature of the employment relationship – fixed-term or permanent – had no impact on the amount of childcare leave taken.

“Your career won’t suffer from this – quite the contrary” 

Arttu Hautala currently spends his days playing and engaging in activities with his daughter indoors and outdoors. His everyday life is hectic, yet slow at the same time.

“I’m still the same old Arttu, but of course, becoming a parent has changed my perspective and even some of my fundamental values. I believe that parental leave provides me with new mental tools for working life as well.”

Hautala is happy about Finland’s family leave reform enabling parents to split their leave more evenly than before.

“I very much encourage other fathers to stay home. This is a unique opportunity to spend time with your child. Your career won’t suffer from this – quite the contrary.”

In Hautala’s view, the different opportunities presented by parental leave could be talked about even more.

“Many don’t know that there are many ways to split the leave between the parents, e.g. one week at a time. That would make it easier for many mothers to return to working life, for example,” Hautala concludes. 

As an employer, the City of Helsinki wants to promote equality and prevent any discrimination based on gender, gender identity or gender expression.Staff surveys are one way to assess and receive information about the realisation of non-discrimination and gender equality. The City conducts its equality and non-discrimination survey for staff members once every four-year strategy period. The results of the survey are utilised in the creation of the City’s equality and non-discrimination plan for staff.