Maternity Leave around the world

It’s amazing how different parental and maternity leave provisions are around the world! Here’s our run down of the five most generous countries, then a range of what other counties offer including some interesting provisions. We finish with who is the meanest western country in the world for paid leave.

Number 1: Estonia

Mothers in Estonia are given 140 days of fully paid pregnancy and maternity leave, which may begin 30-70 days before the expected delivery date. After maternity leave ends, parents get an additional 435 days off to share, with compensation calculated at the average of their two earnings. This is a total of 82 weeks, or around 1 year and 7 months.

Number 2: Sweden

The Swedish government says that parents of both sexes are entitled to 480 days (1 year and 4 months) of paid parental leave at about 80% of their salary (with a cap), plus bonus days for twins, and they must share — Swedish dads must take at least some of those 16 months. The days don’t expire until the child is 8 years old. In the move towards gender equality, each parent:

  • receives their own days of paid parental leave
  • is entitled to 90 days exclusively for him or her
  • has the right to shorten their work hours by up to 25% until the child turns eight (you get paid only for the time you work)

Number 3: Norway

Norway’s system is flexible and generous. Mothers can take 49 weeks (almost a year) at full pay or 59 weeks (1 year 2 months) at 80% pay, and fathers can take between zero and 10 weeks depending on their wives’ income. Together, parents can receive an additional 46 weeks at full pay or 56 weeks at 80% of their income.

Number 4: Germany

3 months maternity leave is provided. In addition to maternity leave, there is the option for the mother or father to take extended parental leave for up to a total of 24 months (2 years), with a parental allowance of 300 to 1200 Euros (depending on salary), paid by the government for the initial 14 months (1 year 2 months). Employees cannot be terminated while on parental leave, and are entitled to the same work hours when they return

Number 5: Serbia and Croatia

Female employees are entitled to receive paid maternity leave of up to 365 days for their first two children and two years for their third and fourth children. If the employee’s first or second pregnancy results in a multiple birth, she is entitled to two years of maternity leave. Croatia also has similar provisions.


In Italy, maternity leave is compulsory and women must take up to two months off from work before her due date and three months off after the baby’s birth. This is paid at 80% by the Government, and many employers pay the extra 20%. One parent or both parents then have the option to take up to 11 months of leave from work during the first eight years of their child’s life. This leave is paid at 30% of one’s wages. This equates to around 4 months on full pay. So a total of 9 months is paid.

Fathers are also obligated to take a four-day paid leave of absence from work during the five months of maternity leave. The mother has the option to extend the father’s paternal leave if she transfers one of her maternity days to him.


Employers have to offer one year of leave to new mothers. They are paid 90% of their salary for the first 6 weeks, and either 90% of a set amount for the next 33 weeks (about 8 months).


Maternity Benefit is paid for 26 weeks (156 days). Maternity Benefit is a 6-day week payment which covers Monday to Saturday. Sunday is not treated as a day of entitlement to Maternity Benefit. At least 2 weeks and not more than 16 weeks of leave must be taken before the end of the week in which your baby is due.

New Zealand

If an employee has worked 6 months, they can apply for 18 weeks maternity/primary carers leave. If an employee has worked 12 months they can apply for up to 52 weeks unpaid parental leave. In both cases, 22 weeks (6 months) of this is paid by the Government at the equivalent of minimum wage. From July 2020 this is increasing to 26 weeks paid.


India’s Maternity Benefit has increased the duration of maternity leave to 26 weeks for two surviving children. In cases where a woman has more than two children, the leave is limited to 12 weeks only. The Maternity Benefit Act provides that a woman will be paid maternity benefit at the rate of her average daily wage in the three months preceding her maternity leave.


All employees are eligible for unpaid parental leave. Casuals have to have been employed on regular and systematic hours over 12 months to apply. Each parent is entitled to up to 12 months unpaid parental leave.  An employee can request a further 12 months after the initial 12 months. The Government pay minimum wage for the first 18 weeks of maternity leave.


As a working mother, you will be entitled to either 16 weeks of Government-Paid Maternity Leave or 12 weeks of maternity leave, depending on whether your child is a Singapore citizen and other criteria.


Female employees are generally entitled to 17 weeks of paid leave, 8 to be taken before the birth and 9 after. For 30 months after maternity leave, parents are generally entitled to either arrive one-hour late or leave one-hour early from work.

South Africa

In South Africa, employees have a statutory entitlement to four consecutive months of unpaid Maternity leave. The four months’ Maternity leave is compulsory for the birth mother, and can only be reduced if a doctor certifies that the employee may return to work earlier. Maternity leave is not gender specific. Employees may also be eligible for a maternity benefit of 38% to 60% of average earnings in the last six months, depending on the level of income. The Maternity benefit is paid for a total of 17.32 weeks.


All employees are entitled to 16 weeks of paid maternity or adoption leave. The mother must take at least six weeks off immediately following the birth of a child. For multiple births, the time off work increases by two weeks for each child beyond one.


A pregnant employee or new mother can take a paid maternity leave of up to 15 weeks (just over 3 months). Either the mother or father can take 35 weeks of parental leave after the baby is born or adopted. The parents can share the leave however they choose.


Maternity leave lasts 98 days (or 14 weeks), from the day it starts. Both full-time and part-time employees are entitled to maternity leave. Women who return to work earlier lose their entitlement to compensation. Mothers are paid 80% of their wages in the form of a daily allowance.


Maternity leave can be taken from six weeks before giving birth and it can be taken until eight weeks after the birth. Maternity leave is paid at 66% of a mother’s regular salary for these 14 weeks.


The Employment Act provides maternity protection. An entitlement of 84 days (12 weeks) (42 before and 42 after the birth) maternity leave and a maternity allowance is provided

In last place: USA

The USA has no paid parental leave provisions at all. Certain employers, including those with 50 or more employees in a locale and public sector employers, must give up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for personal or family illness, or for the birth or placement of a child.

So that’s a list of the great countries to take parental leave, and where you might not get such generous provisions!

For more about employment law training, check out what Elephant Group offers in your country.

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