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Which country has the best maternity leave policy?

Women make up nearly half of the total labour force in several countries and spend nearly twice as much time on unpaid labour (like childcare and housework) than their male counterparts.

The trend towards longer parental leave is helping to address this inequality, but it’s worth noting that maternity leave still varies widely from country to country. Global workspace specialist Instant Offices has explored which countries are the forerunners for having the best maternity leave in the world.

Despite offering the longest maternity leave, the percentage of salary paid to the employees during the covered period varies widely. Some countries cover the new mother’s total wages, while others pay as little as one quarter.

Bulgaria takes the top spot with 58.60 weeks of maternity leave with a 90% payment rate. This is followed by Croatia who has taken the 5th spot with 30 weeks, but all fully paid at 100%.

Comparison of Weeks Paid
Bulgaria – 58.60
Greece – 43
United Kingdom – 39
Slovakia – 34
Croatia – 30
Czech Republic
Ireland – 26
Hungary – 24
Italy – 21.70
Luxembourg – 20

Comparison of Payment Rate
Luxembourg – 100%
Croatia – 100%
Bulgaria – 90%
Italy – 80%
Slovakia – 75%
Hungary – 70%
Czech Republic – 61%
Greece – 49%
United Kingdom – 30%Ireland – 26%

Maternity leave is offered in 184 economies with a median leave of 98 days, while paternity leave is available in 105 economies with a median of just five days.

This is a much-needed change, as currently there are no standards regarding paternity leave in the EU, and only around 10% of fathers in the EU use paternity leave 

More countries are starting to follow the compassionate examples set by India, Taiwan and the Philippines by offering bereavement leave to grieving parents after a miscarriage or stillbirth.

Since 1961, India has granted six weeks of fully paid leave for women who experience a miscarriage. The Philippines allows up to 60 days of paid leave after miscarriage. Other APAC nations with similar policies include Mauritius, Taiwan and Singapore.

New Zealand recently followed suit, passing the Bereavement Leave for Miscarriage Bill, which allows three days of paid leave for parents experiencing pregnancy loss.

Lucinda Pullinger, Global Head of HR at The Instant Group commented: “Despite some progress in recent years, COVID-19 has caused significant disruptions in work-life balance, and women are now spending 15 hours more on unpaid work like caregiving every week compared to men.

“With more countries moving towards better equality around parental leave, more men are being encouraged to take time off after the birth of their child, or after their partner’s maternity leave has ended. In an effort to promote this, couples are being offered more shared leave entitlements and more freedom around how they split their leave.

“By encouraging a better work-life balance for women and men and flexible working and remote working options, more countries and businesses are embracing the effort to support a more diverse workforce.”