Maternity and Paternity Leave Regulations Worldwide

Maternity and Paternity Leave Regulations Worldwide

Maternity and Paternity Leave Regulations Worldwide

January 5, 2023


Picture of INS Global



Picture of INS Global



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Key Takeaways

  1. Typically, maternity leave is longer, often lasting for weeks or months at a time
  2. Due to changing policies worldwide, many countries are adopting new regulations that increase the amount of paternity leave available to fathers
  3. A good amount of parental leave can boost employee morale when they are ready to return to work


Having employees take leave for the birth of their children can potentially complicate company delivery schedules or workflow. However, integrating strong paid parental leave structures into your HR system is a great way to plan ahead and ensure you and your employees are covered. The first step to doing this for international companies is to understand maternity and paternity leave regulations worldwide.

In this article, we explore the variety of maternity and paternity leave regulations around the world to give you an idea of how to offer competitive benefit structures that leave everyone satisfied.


What are Maternity and Paternity Leave?


Maternity leave and paternity leave, sometimes discussed together as parental leave shared between mothers and fathers, can take many forms.

In general, they refer to leave (paid or unpaid) taken from work due to the birth of a child. This leave can be taken after the birth of a child or, in some cases, before. Typically, maternity leave is longer, often lasting for weeks or months at a time. At the same time, paternity leave is much shorter in many countries, only a few days to a week.

However, due to changing policies worldwide, many countries are adopting new regulations that increase the amount of paternity leave available to fathers.

Alternatively, they may opt for schemes that share a single amount of shared parental leave between two parents to be divided as they see fit.


Who is Eligible to Take Paternity Leave?


Typically, to take advantage of paternity leave, you must be either:

–         The father of a new child (either biological or adopted in many cases)

–         The husband or partner of a new mother

–         The intended parent of a child expected through a surrogacy arrangement

Additionally, some countries may offer differing amounts of leave based on full-time or part-time contracts.

However, the bigger question may be whether this paternity leave is paid. This depends entirely on the market you operate in. It’s advisable to look at specific regulations in your country in terms of paid or unpaid leave, as well as who is expected to pay for the leave if paid leave is offered.

Unpaid – Few countries worldwide offer only unpaid paternity leave, with the US being one example. In most US states, companies are left to offer maternity and paternity leave according to their judgment.

Mixed or Employer Paid – Many countries may require companies to pay some or all employees’ wages while taking paternity leave. One example is Serbia, where employers are expected to cover 100% of paternity leave payments.

Paid via Social Security – In most cases, paternity leave is paid via social security, which is usually funded by contributions taken as part of payroll taxes. An excellent example is Sweden, where employees can expect to be paid 80% of their full pay during paternity leave.


The TOP 5 Countries with the Best Paternity Leave Worldwide 


Sweden – 240 days (potentially, from a minimum of 90 days for fathers) at 80% standard salary

Japan – 12 months at 67% standard salary

Iceland – 6 months at 80% standard salary

Finland – 164 days of a paternity allowance

Spain – 16 weeks at 100% standard salary


How Long is Paternity Leave Around the World?


The length of available paternity leave differs widely around the world, with some offering only a few days of leave which may or not be unpaid. In contrast, other countries provide a period of leave on par with maternity leave so fathers or partners can offer support during a difficult time.

Only a handful of countries around the world do not require companies to offer any paid paternity leave (although there may be additional rules requiring the option for unpaid leave). These are:

–         United States

–         Papua New Guinea

–         Suriname

–         The Marshall Islands

–         Micronesia

–         Nauru

–         Palau

–         Tonga

Many countries may only offer a few days of paid paternity leave for birth or adoption (including countries like Canada or Austria).

Other countries are known internationally for their exceptionally high amounts of available paternity leave. In Finland, for example, each parent, regardless of gender, can take 164 days of leave. While fathers in Estonia may only get 2 weeks of specified time off, they can share in 435 days of compensated parental leave.

Generally, the countries that offer long paternity leave are likely to combine it into some sort of combined leave that can be shared between parents.


The TOP 5 Countries with the Best Paid Maternity Leave Worldwide


Due to the variety of ways that countries offer maternity leave in terms of length, compensation, and sharing between partners, the following countries provide some of the best mixes of all three variations.

Estonia – 140 days at 100% standard salary

Bulgaria – 410 days at 90% of standard salary that can be taken at any time until the child’s second birthday

Norway – 49/59 weeks at 100/80% standard salary

Sweden – 240 days at 80% standard salary

Greece – 43 weeks (17 weeks paid at 54% of standard salary, and the rest can be taken in reduced hours)


Which Countries Have No Maternity Leave?


In 2022, the following countries have no guaranteed paid leave for either parent:

-The United States

– Suriname

However, in the US, many states require employers to offer employees some form of maternity leave. In most cases, it is up to the company to decide on a suitable policy.


maternity and paternity leave worldwide