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EFTA watchdog sues Norway for discrimination against fathers

Staff Writer |
The watchdog of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) will take Norway to EFTA's court for discrimination against fathers in parental benefit treatment, public broadcaster NRK reported.

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The Norwegian rules stipulate that father's right to parental benefit is linked to the mother's employment situation, while the same does not apply to the opposite way. Fathers are entitled to parental benefit only if mothers are working or studying.

The EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) has said Norway has failed to fulfill its obligations towards the agreement on the European economic area (EEA) by maintaining in force the provisions that discriminate against fathers.

"Equal treatment is a core principle of EEA law. When Norwegian authorities systematically and illegally treat women and men differently, it is ESA's job to hold them to account," ESA President Bente Angell-Hansen said in a press release.

"The EEA rules do not require Norway to offer paid parental leave. However, if such a system is in place, it must be founded on equal treatment," she said.

This will be ESA's third and final step in the formal investigation of EEA supervision against Norway. After ESA started its own initiative in October 2015, they also received several complaints from Norwegian fathers.

After meetings in 2016 and 2017 in Oslo, there was no success in reaching agreement. Norway's authorities, on the other hand, state that the rules for parental benefits fall outside the scope of the equal treatment directive.

Norwegian Ministry of Children and Equality has also argued that it is in any case a positive measure intended to get more mothers to work again while fathers takes out parental leave. This, according to them, will contribute to increased gender equality in working life.

The equal treatment directive has an opening for such positive discrimination, but the ESA believes the Norwegian rules for parental benefits do not meet the requirements that apply, the report said.

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