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Parental Leave Policy Around the World

posted: 10/17/16
by: Katherine Sosnoff

It wasn't until I became pregnant and intimately acquainted with my company's maternity leave policy, that I realized how varying benefits could be at different companies., I was lucky to work for a company that had a great maternity leave policy, and I had wrongly assumed that their policy was par for the course. However, when I chatted with other mom friends about their own experiences with maternity leave, it became startlingly clear that I was in the very lucky minority to have the benefits that I did. Just 11% of employers in the United States provide paid maternity leave, and that doesn't even begin to account for paternity leave and adoption benefits. The U.S. is the only developed nation that doesn't require employers to provide some type of paid leave at even a portion of one's salary, making parental leave a hot topic for politicians and their constituents. What are we missing out on? Some examples of other parental leave policies around the world include:

  • U.K: Our friends in the U.K., for example, receive 52 weeks of maternity leave, 39 of which are paid at 90% of your pay rate. Your maternity leave can be shared with your spouse and expecting moms are able to begin their leave up to 11 weeks prior to the expected birth of their child.

  • Sweden: Sweden provides 16 months of maternity leave (!), with 13 months paid at 80% your normal salary. Mothers and fathers must each take at least three months of this leave, with the remaining ten months to split up however they see fit. In addition, you can reduce your working hours by 25% until your child is eight, providing an opportunity to balance work and life with a young child.

  • France: In France, women are entitled to 16 weeks maternity leave at their full salary, with six weeks taken prior to the birth of their child (as someone who had to waddle into the office on their super-swollen feet in the August heat, this policy sounds good to me!). In addition, families with two or more children are given a monthly cash benefit from the French government.

  • Italy: Italian women are entitled to five months of maternity leave, paid at 80% of their salary, which also covers women for their doctor's appointments during pregnancy. If you're self-employed, you also get up to three months of leave provided by the government.

  • Finland: Finland, too, believes women shouldn't be working right up until their due date, providing women with paid maternity leave beginning a month and a half prior to giving birth, and continuing for four months after. It also has a Parental Allowance system, which provides financial support to families and helps men take parental leave as well. Oh and when you do return to work? Childcare costs are subsidized.

  • Australia: Australians make maternity leave equal opportunity, in that parents are able to split the 18 week paid leave as they see fit (mom taking the first 10 weeks, dad taking the final 8, for example). 18 weeks just not enough time? Jobs are protected for up to one year following the birth of a child, so if the family can swing it financially, parents can stay home with their tot until their first birthday.