What Maternity Leave Looks Like In Other Countries

What Maternity Leave Looks Like In Other Countries

Aug 13 , 2020

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Megan McDonough

Since traveling is off the table for many of us this summer, we’re taking a virtual tour around the world. In particular, we're looking at what parental leave looks like in other countries. 

We found that many countries offer both maternal and paternal leave, while in others, moms can take leave for an entire year (in one case, up to 18 months). Scroll below to see how the U.S. compares to 8 other countries across the globe. 

The United States

Before taking a look at how other countries treat maternity leave, let’s review our own country’s policies. In accordance with the Family and Medical Leave Act, men and women are eligible (as in, it doesn’t apply to everyone) for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. 

It’s important to note that right now, the U.S. does not have a law that outright covers parental leave. As a result, parental leave is largely left in the hands of individual employers and many companies offer no leave package. For freelancers and the self-employed, there is a whole other set of guidelines you must meet in order to receive support. 

Norway 

Leading the pack when it comes to progressive (and fair) maternity leave, Norway offers 100% paid leave for 40 weeks. That percentage drops to 80% from 41-52 weeks. Dads are also given 12 weeks of paternity leave so that they can bond with their babies as a family. For single moms, there are special facilities available to better help with their transition. 

In an effort to aid working moms, children as young as 9 months are allowed to enter a Kindergarten, which in Norway follows a standardized syllabus and organizational structure. These schools open as early as 7:30 in the morning and close around 5:30, making it easier for moms to pick up their children after work. 

France

According to an article on Ellevate, maternity leave in France is generally well-organized and available to moms, especially if you work at a large company. Women can take up to 4 months of paid maternity leave; if they choose to take off more time, it is possible, but they may receive a pay cut. 

Typically, women leave work 6 weeks before they are due, and stay home 10 weeks before returning to work. If you have even a minor complication, it’s possible to get a doctor’s note granting you a “bonus” two weeks of leave. 

Australia

While France’s maternity leave is fairly consistent across pay grades and industries, Australia’s policies are somewhat more flexible. Currently, Australians get 18 weeks of paid maternity leave at the (average) pay rate of 42% their normal salary. If you do the math, that comes out to around 7.5 weeks of full-time pay. 

Some companies offer their employees options, such as 6 months at half pay, or less. In general, while there are minimums in place, how much maternity leave you receive really depends on your unique work situation. 

That said, new moms are legally allowed to take 12 months of maternity leave, although as stated above, not all of this is paid. They can also ask for an additional 12 months if there are health complications. 

Hong Kong

Expecting mothers in Hong Kong usually begin their leave two weeks before giving birth. In line with Chinese and Cantonese cultural traditions, the first month after childbirth is spent resting (staying inside, eating certain foods and recovering in private, overall). 

Another aspect of Chinese and Cantonese culture is the support of live-in “helpers.” These helpers, who are often women, assist in caring for the baby as well as doing household chores like laundry and cooking. They are definitely affordable, but also controversial

Some moms hire midwives/doulas that help with breast massage, which is also controversial because these women are not always properly trained

Ghana

Female employees are entitled to 12 weeks (84 days) of maternity leave with full pay. If the baby is born via caesarean or there is a complication surrounding the birth, women are granted two more weeks of leave. 

Similar to in the U.S., childcare is expensive and some private companies might include programs to help their employees offset those out-of-pocket costs.  

The United Kingdom

In line with the “Statutory Maternity Leave” policy, eligible employees can take 52 weeks of maternity leave. Expecting mothers can begin their leave 11 weeks before their estimated due date. Employees are not allowed to return to work for at least two weeks after giving birth. 

The U.K. also has "Statutory Maternity Pay,” which means that a woman’s salary won’t be affected for up to 39 weeks. In some cases, companies choose to go above and beyond these measures, to ensure that their employees are happy and getting the support they need. 

India 

Moms in India can access paid maternity leave for 26 weeks, beginning up to eight weeks before the expected due date and lasting until 18 weeks after giving birth. For women with two or more kids already, they are entitled to 12 weeks’ maternity leave, both pre and post birth. 

The one hitch? In order to claim maternity leave, a woman has had to have worked at least 80 days for her employer. Once that requirement is met, the company will pay her a full salary rather than the basic salary. 

Sweden

We’re saving the best for last, because Sweden might just be the most ideal place to have a baby. Both moms and dads are allowed to stay off work until their child is 18 months old. Yes, a year and a half! 

Mothers may go on maternity leave starting seven weeks before their due date; additional leave after the baby’s birth can be extended if they enroll in parenting courses. Fathers can take 10 days of paid paternity leave (20 if their partner gives birth to twins). 

Business Insider said it best: “In theory, a parent (regardless of sex) could insist on being off work unpaid the first 18 months after the birth and after that they could be off work for another eight months based on paid parental leave (and up to another five months if they are granted the days of the other parent). That’s plenty of time to produce a new child to reset the allowance.”

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