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In today’s world of work, remote hiring has turned into a daily routine for many HR teams. Digitization, collaboration tools for distributed teams and flexible work policies allow companies to tap into a global talent pool.
However, hiring remote employees around the globe also comes with its own unique set of challenges. One of the main concerns when hiring employees abroad is to comply with all the local employment law regulations.
What’s more, leaders should be aware of the local leave policies, especially when it comes to parental leave. Having one of your employees announcing out of the blue that they will be off on parental leave for a year - or even longer - can really disturb your team dynamics. And finding a replacement to cover the missing team member for such a long time can be quite a problem.
Planning ahead is crucial and starts with being aware of all the legal leave entitlements employees enjoy in their respective home country. In this article, we’ll take a look at parental leave around the world, focusing on those countries that have the most generous parental leave laws.
In many countries, parents enjoy different leave entitlements related to their child’s birth. These include:
Maternity leave, i.e. leave for mothers in the weeks immediately preceding and following birth
Paternity leave, i.e. leave for fathers or, in many cases, recognized second parents to the child, which is usually also given in the immediate period after birth - in some countries even before birth
Parental leave, i.e. leave for parents in order to take care of their newborn child, following the respective maternity and paternity leave period
Although some countries have introduced leave policies under which maternity, paternity and parental leave are grouped together into a universal family leave linked to childbirth, most countries operate with distinct policies for the three different leave types.
For the purpose of this blog post, we’ll adopt a broader concept of parental leave, thus including maternity and paternity leave entitlements. The modalities regarding parental leave also differ from country to country.
While some countries pay statutory benefits, others just provide for unpaid leave and protection from dismissal during the legally defined leave period. Yet others require employers to contribute to the payments to help finance the leave period.
The main authority issuing recommendations and guidelines for countries with regard to employment standards is the International Labour Organization (ILO). According to the ILO’s Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 (No.183), mothers should be given at least 14 weeks of maternity leave around child birth.
In a later convention, the organization even recommends a minimum of 18 weeks. Further guidelines provide for dismissal protection for mothers of small children, health protection for the new mother at her workplace and breastfeeding support after her return to work. There are no separate recommendations issued by the ILO regarding parental leave.
The European Union has also issued guidelines on how much parental leave its member states should provide for working parents. Under the current rights to work-life balance, mothers in the EU should be entitled to at least 14 weeks of maternity leave which should at least be paid at the same level as ordinary sick leave.
The minimum parental leave entitlement to be provided in the EU is 4 months. A new EU directive, which has entered into force in March 2022, further mandates that member states should give working fathers the right to take at least 10 days of paid paternity leave - but member states have until August 2022 to implement matching national policies. As for maternity leave, paternity leave in the EU should be remunerated at least at the same rates as sick leave days.
The same directive also demands for more participation of male employees in childcare. Under the new rules, 2 of the 4 months of mandatory parental leave should be non-transferrable - before, it was only 1 month. Furthermore, employees with newborn children should be able to request flexible working arrangements.
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In a 2014 news publication, the ILO stated that more than 50% of its member countries - 98 countries to be exact - offered at least 14 weeks of maternity leave as recommended by the organization. 78 countries further gave fathers the right to go on paternity leave. Numbers have certainly increased ever since as more and more countries have adopted at least basic maternity leave entitlements.
In fact, there are now only very few countries in the world that don’t offer any form of paid parental leave. The most prominent example is the US. As one of only seven countries worldwide, the United States doesn't provide paid leave for mothers with newborn children - nor any other paid parental leave. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), female employees are barely entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in case of childbirth.
The other six countries without paid leave for pregnant employees - and parents of newborn children in general - are small island states such as Papua New Guinea and the Marshall Islands.
Although many countries follow the international guidelines set by the ILO, some countries are especially generous when it comes to parental leave entitlements. Here are the 10 countries where parents of newborn children enjoy the most paid days off and the best benefits.
Little spoiler: You may have guessed that the Nordic countries are high up in the ranking. But there are also some countries that may surprise you.
A quick word on how we have selected the countries for our listing. When choosing the countries with the most generous parental leave laws, we have not only looked at the total amount of time off (including maternity, paternity as well as any additional childcare and family leave), but also at how much pay new parents receive during this time - and for how long.
The possibility for both parents to take time off to care for their newborn child was also taken into account. The order with which the different countries are presented is not meant to constitute any sort of ranking as it’s hard to compare the total entitlements with regard to length, equality and pay level.
Employees in Estonia have access to seven different types of leave related to childbirth and child care - including adopter’s leave. One of them is the statutory maternity leave which can begin up to 70 days before the expected due date and which lasts for 140 days. Fathers are entitled to 30 days of paid paternity leave. Following maternity and paternity leave, both parents can take parental leave until the child is 3 years old.
However, it is only possible for one parent at the time to be on parental leave. Maternity leave is paid by the Estonian Health Insurance Fund at rates equal to the employee’s usual salary. Paternity leave is paid by the employer who can then claim a refund from the Health Insurance Fund. A parental leave allowance is paid for a total duration of 435 days.
Want to know more about leave entitlements and employment regulations in Estonia? Check out our Estonia Hiring Guide.
Sweden is one of the countries that don’t explicitly distinguish between maternity, paternity and parental leave. Instead, employees in Sweden receive a total of 480 days of paid parental leave per child. The 480 days can be divided between both parents as they see fit, but 90 days are exclusively reserved for each parent. This brings the total amount of leave which can be taken by one single parent to 390 days.
While on parental leave, employees receive a parental leave allowance equal to 80% of their usual wages. For the mother, the leave can begin up to 60 days before the expected date of birth. Fathers can take 10 days of leave at the same time as the mother on occasion of the birth.
Want to know more about leave entitlements and employment regulations in Sweden? Check out our Sweden Hiring Guide.
Female employees can take up to 168 days of maternity leave - starting up to 28 days before the expected date of birth. During this time, they receive a maternity leave allowance equal to 70 percent of her normal wages. Paternity leave is 5 days and is fully paid. Following maternity and paternity leave, either one of the parents can take parental leave until the child reaches the age of two - until the age of three in certain cases. Parental leave allowance is equal to maternity leave allowance.
Want to know more about leave entitlements and employment regulations in Hungary? Check out our Hungary Hiring Guide.
Maternity leave in Denmark is partially regulated by collective agreement. All mothers can take 4 weeks before and 14 weeks after birth, but the remuneration rate is determined by collective agreement. According to law, the payment for maternity leave is at least 50%, but may go up to 100%. Fathers of newborn children can take 2 weeks of paternity leave.
Following maternity and paternity leave, parents can go on paid parental leave for a duration of up to 32 weeks. This leads to a total of 52 weeks of leave entitlement for parents in Denmark. It is, however, possible to extend parental leave by either 8 or 14 weeks - on adapted pay rates.
Want to know more about leave entitlements and employment regulations in Denmark? Check out our Denmark Hiring Guide.
Employees in Lithuania have the right to take 126 days of paid maternity leave. Fathers are entitled to 30 days of paid paternity leave. After that, either one of the parents can go on parental leave to take care of their child. Parental leave can last up to the child’s third birthday. However, the parental leave allowance will only be paid for either one or two years - depending on the chosen allowance amount. For all three types of leave, benefits are paid by the Social Insurance Fund.
Want to know more about leave entitlements and employment regulations in Lithuania? Check out our Lithuania Hiring Guide.
Bulgarian legislation grants female employees a right to a boasting 410 days of maternity leave, starting up to 45 days before the expected date of birth. Fathers get 15 days of paid paternity leave. For maternity and paternity leave, the national Health Insurance Fund pays an allowance amounting to 90% of the employee’s usual salary. Although the law doesn’t provide explicitly for any additional parental leave for fathers as such, fathers are allowed to take any unused maternity leave with the mother’s consent.
However, this only becomes possible once the child is older than 6 months. After the initial 410 days of maternity leave, female employees can opt to extend their leave until the child’s second birthday. The extension is paid at minimum wage rates by the Health Insurance Fund.
Want to know more about leave entitlements and employment regulations in Bulgaria? Check out our Bulgaria Hiring Guide.
Iceland’s parental leave entitlements are designed to promote equality between both partners. Parents in Iceland are entitled to a total of 9 months of paid parental leave. This includes 3 months for each parent to be used after birth, plus an additional 3 months thereafter. The latter can be split between both parents. Parental leave is paid at a rate of 80% by the Icelandic Maternity/Paternity Leave Fund. Following the 9 months of paid parental leave, employees can take another four months of unpaid parental leave.
Want to know more about leave entitlements and employment regulations in Iceland? Check out our Iceland Hiring Guide.
Parental leave policies in Norway don’t explicitly distinguish between maternity, paternity and parental leave. Parental leave benefits are paid for either 49 weeks - on full pay - or for 59 weeks - on 80% pay. 15 weeks are reserved for each parent. For female employees, pregnancy-related leave can start up to 12 weeks before the expected date of birth. The 6 weeks immediately after birth are equally reserved for the mother.
Fathers and partners get 2 weeks of leave on occasion of the birth. After this initial parental leave period, parents can take an additional year off work. However, this extended parental leave will be unpaid.
Want to know more about leave entitlements and employment regulations in Norway? Check out our Norway Hiring Guide.
Finnish mothers get 105 days of paid maternity leave, out of which 30 to 50 days are meant to be used during pregnancy. Paternity leave in Finland is also quite generous with 54 days which are paid with a statutory allowance. 18 days of paternity leave can be taken in parallel with maternity leave. Upon the termination of maternity and paternity leave, employees can go on parental leave. Finnish social security Kela pays a parental leave allowance for a total of 158 days. Single mothers may be able to get an extension of 54 days.
Please note that the Finnish government has announced reforms concerning the leave entitlements for parents. The reforms are expected to enter into force in August 2022. The aim is to increase the overall leave entitlement and create more flexibility. Under the new model, mothers will receive 40 days of maternity leave, followed by 320 days of parental leave, to which both parents will be entitled in equal shares. For the entire leave duration, a daily allowance will be paid.
Want to know more about leave entitlements and employment regulations in Finland? Check out our Finland Hiring Guide.
Serbia’s employment law provides for 1 year of fully paid maternity leave. Pregnant employees can start their leave between 28 and 45 days prior to the expected date of birth. The child’s father can take 7 days of paternity leave. Employees giving birth for the third time are even allowed to extend their maternity leave to 2 years instead of just 1.
Want to know more about leave entitlements and employment regulations in Serbia? Check out our Serbia Hiring Guide.
When hiring remote employees abroad, employers should make sure to be familiar with local employment laws to avoid any compliance risks. In many cases, however, the HR team lacks the necessary local expertise. Navigating employment law in different countries can then quickly become overwhelming, especially as legislation is constantly changing.
Using an Employer of Record when hiring abroad will take the compliance burden off your shoulders and ensure that you meet all the local employment requirements. Use Lano’s Employer of Record solution to keep in the loop of local employment law changes and receive reliable information on parental leave and other mandatory employee benefits before you hire the next member of your global team.
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