As an international employer, it's critical that you understand what benefits you are legally required to offer to your employees and contractors based on the jurisdictions in which they reside and work. Staying compliant with local and international regulations for basic statutory benefits will ensure you run a tight ship and keep your workers happy. Today, maternity leave has become a requirement in many jurisdictions and is considered essential for attracting and retaining skilled female employees and contractors.
As more and more skilled female workers seek a combination of flexibility, innovation, and positive corporate culture at work, maternity leave around the world is more in-demand than ever. It's becoming increasingly important for employers to offer maternity leave due to changes in employee expectations and labor regulations worldwide.
To understand how maternity leave policies are changing globally, you need to know which countries provide the most prolonged maternity leave. Also, which countries offer paid maternity leave, and, on the other hand, which do not compensate employees and contractors (or their partners) during and after pregnancy and birth.
This guide will help you understand paid maternity leave by country and, in the countries where paid maternity leave is generally not offered, which alternatives, if any, are available to pregnant women and new mothers.
Maternity leave: progress and challenges
Employers in many countries are required by law to provide maternity leave for their female workers. The maternity leave and compensation — or lack thereof — varies from one country and from one organization to another. This makes maternity leave a relatively complex consideration that international employers need to pay close attention to to avoid accidental non-compliance.
The current state of maternity leave worldwide is shaped by a combination of factors, including:
- Gender norms
- Cultural differences
- Gender-related public policies
- International gender equality developments
This disparity in laws, policies, and norms has introduced major shifts in international public gender and labor-related policies, which have led to more favorable conditions for working mothers. The International Labor Organization sets, for example, a minimum 14-week (or 98 days) of paid maternity leave. In practice, however, just 64% of the 184 countries that provide some form of paid leave comply with the ILO's guidance. That leaves a wide gap at the national level in many countries. International employers can close this gap by providing generous maternity leave benefits to attract and retain more skilled local and international female talent.
Maternity leave has become an increasingly important consideration for working mothers, and a lack of maternity leave benefits is often a deal-breaker during a mother's employment search.
To get a closer look at how maternity leave is structured globally, let's review how several countries handle it.
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Maternity leave worldwide: some quick facts
- In a report by Pew Research that compared the maternity leave policies of 81 high- and middle-income countries, Estonia was at the top of the list, with a national policy that provides new mothers with a record-breaking paid leave period of 82 weeks or more.
- Finland takes into account the needs of both parents by offering a generous 164-day paid leave period for each parent, regardless of a parent's gender.
- More extended periods of paid maternity leave make workers happier and more productive.
Maternity leave by country
Let's discuss maternity leave policies in select countries across North America, Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa.
The United States
- The Federal Employee Paid Leave Act (FEPLA) and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) regulate maternity and parental leave in the United States.
- Under FEPLA, employed mothers and fathers are entitled to a 12-week paid leave period, which the employees can use only during the 12 months after a child's birth or placement in foster care.
- Mothers are eligible for paid maternal leave under FEPLA only if eligible for FMLA leave under 5 U.S.C. 6382(a)(1)(A) or (B).
- Maternity leave is given only to the parent who gives birth to a child. New mothers can take up to 15 weeks, paid at a rate of 55% of their base salary, with a maximum weekly rate of $638.
- Parents cannot share maternity benefits between themselves in Canada. Still, parents can share up to 40 weeks of parental leave between themselves, during which the employers pay them a benefit rate of 55% of their base salary. Parents can also apply for extended parental leave, which can last up to 69 weeks and is paid at 33% of the employee's base salary.
- Under directive 92/85, working mothers are entitled to a minimum of 14 weeks maternity leave at a compensation rate equal to or greater than national-level sick pay.
- Individual EU members have different maternity leave regulations.
- Working mothers are entitled to paid leave for six weeks before and eight weeks after childbirth.
- The maternity leave allowance is set at a maximum of €13 a day.
- Working mothers are entitled to paid leave for six weeks before and ten weeks after childbirth.
- Working mothers are entitled to compensation for pregnancy-related compulsory medical examinations, for which contributions are shared between employers and employees until the 6th month of pregnancy.
- Working mothers are entitled to paid maternity leave, provided they stop all forms of paid work.
- Both parents are entitled to 16 weeks of paid leave starting after the child is born. This period is extendable by two weeks (one week for each parent) for each child from the second birth onwards.
- Other than the leave provided after birth, working mothers are entitled to paid leave in other maternity-related circumstances, such as if the expecting mother is unable to work due to pregnancy complications.
- Working mothers are entitled to up to five months of paid leave, which they can only take shortly before and immediately after birth. New mothers have some freedom in choosing when they take those five months; they can either start their leave two months before childbirth, so they're home for three months after, or start one month before giving birth, so they're home for four months after.
- Working mothers on maternity leave are paid 80% of their base salary.
- Working mothers (and fathers, under a common parental leave arrangement) are entitled to an overall 480 days of paid leave shared between parents for each child.
- Working mothers and fathers are entitled to a minimum parental leave pay rate of SEK 180 ($16) per day.
- Poland offers working mothers a maternal leave period of 20-37 weeks, depending on how many children are born during one birth.
- Parental leave begins after maternity leave ends. Working mothers and fathers are entitled to 32-34 weeks of paid parental leave, shared between the parents.
- Working mothers and fathers are entitled to a parental leave pay rate of 100% of their base salary for the first six weeks and at a rate of 60% for the following weeks.
- China's maternity leave regulations and policies vary by province. In Beijing and Shanghai, for example, maternity leave has been increased to at least 158 days.
- Maternity leave benefits and entitlements are also province-specific.
- The Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 regulates maternity leave policies in India.
- Working mothers are entitled to at least six weeks of paid maternity leave, starting at childbirth or in the event of a miscarriage.
- Working mothers are entitled to a pay rate of 100% of their base salary during their maternity leave. They are covered starting at childbirth and for up to six weeks afterward.
- Working mothers are entitled to 14 weeks of paid maternity leave, starting six weeks before childbirth and lasting eight weeks after.
- Working mothers are entitled to a 67% pay rate of their base salary during their leave, with a maximum of ¥284,415 ($1,939) monthly.
- A pregnant, working employee is entitled to 120 days of paid maternity leave for up to five months after childbirth.
- Maternity leave benefits are paid by employers, who Brazil's National Social Security reimburses.
- Working mothers are entitled to 90 days of paid maternity leave. These 90 days are split in half so the mothers can take 45 before birth and 45 after.
- Argentina's National Social Security Administration pays maternity leave benefits as a family allowance.
- Working mothers are eligible for four months of unpaid maternity leave, one month before childbirth.
- Only on a case-by-case basis can working mothers claim maternity leave from South Africa's Department of Labor.
- Working mothers are eligible for 16 weeks of paid maternity leave at a pay rate of 100% of their base salary.
Skuad: Getting maternity leave right
Maternity leave is now the standard benefits employees and contractors expect — even when no maternity benefits are mandated by law in their given jurisdictions. As an international employer, you must comply with maternity leave policies in the countries where your employees reside. But to attract and retain the best talent in your industry, you need to offer more than the bare minimum in terms of benefits.
At Skuad, we offer comprehensive benefits packages. If you're planning to roll out your maternity leave benefits plan, we are here to help guide you throughout the process. Our in-house experts can provide the advice you need to build the best plan for you and your employees.
Contact us today and schedule a demo, so you can leave the policy-building to us and focus on running your business.