Nothing is more important than the time a mother gets to spend with her baby right after bringing them into the world. The baby needs their mother for food and comfort; likewise, the mother needs a chance to bond with her baby and recover from childbirth. That is why maternity leave is so important, and it is something that is ignored in some countries.
The US has one of the least respected maternity leave policies among all developed nations. It is so lacking, that it is almost surprising. Most employers in the US don’t offer any type of maternity leave besides what is provided by federal law, which is not much.
The law in the US that most women rely on is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This will protect a woman's job for up to 12 weeks after childbirth or adoptions. However, the law does not require their employer to pay them for that time. This means that a lot of women cannot even afford to take that much time off. Some are forced to return to work before they are even recovered from childbirth, especially if they have had a C-section.
There are a lot of countries that are doing it right, and they have really nailed down the importance of a mother’s chance to be with her baby in those early days. We thought we would look at 20 countries that have the best maternity leave laws. It may be time to start packing some bags, this list may make some people want to make a big move.
20 Estonia Offers 85 Weeks Of Full Salary
Estonia is a surprising one to be the first on this list, and not just because not a lot of people know where this place. Estonia is a country that is located just west of Russia. They have one of the best maternity leave policies out there. They offer 166 weeks of leave at 51% of wages. This would also equal about 85 weeks of full salary.
According to the Organization of Economic Co-Operation and Development (OCED), which is a group that monitors stats on maternal leave policies, the benefits don’t end there. The government pays the wages while the mother is on leave, and when she does return to work, she is allowed a one-hour break for breastfeeding.
19 Hungary Comes Through With Benefits Until The Child Is Three
You will notice that a lot of the countries on this list are in Europe, and they appear to have it all figured out. According to information found on Romper.com, in Hungary, mothers are allowed 160 weeks of leave at 44% of their wages. They also receive a benefit called the Child Home Care Allowance, which they can get until the child is 3-years old.
There is a mommy blogger named Bea who lives in Hungary, and she had this to say about the maternal leave in her country, “People around here often complain that the money is not good enough, but I always try to point out that in other countries you do not even get any money or worse: you are not entitled to have a proper maternity at all.” Very true.
18 Bulgaria Knows Mom Doesn't Want To Work Right Up Until The Day She Gives Birth
According to the BBC, Bulgaria has had falling birth rates over the year. This means that less and less babies are being born. This means that they work even harder to make sure they are able to support the families they do have. They provide 110 weeks of leave at 59% of the wages a mother would make at work.
This support also starts before the baby is born. Pregnant women are expected to start their maternity leave 45 days before their due date. This is a great opportunity for a woman to relax and get everything in order before her big day. In other countries, women are working up until the moment their water breaks.
17 Czech Republic Employers Want You To Have Options
The Czech Republic is one of the smallest countries in Europe, they only have a population of about 10 million. That could be a factor in why they are able to take such good care of their new mothers and fathers. According to information found on Romper.com, new mothers are entitled to 110 weeks of maternity leave at 48% of their wages. That is equivalent to a full year at full salary.
The law in the country also states that parents with children, or even other family responsibilities, must be given part-time or flexible-time work options. This is a great opportunity for parents to make sure their work-life and home-life have a great and healthy balance.
16 Latvia Is Thinking About The Dads
Latvia is a struggling country in Europe in comparison to others. According to Politico, since Latvia joined the EU in 2003, they have seen one-fifth of their population leave or other countries in Europe to start a life. One way they are trying to stop their citizens from leaving is to offer a wonderful maternity leave policy.
According to information found on Romper.com, they provide 94 weeks of leave at 56% of the wages, or the equivalent of one year at full salary. They are also taking fathers into consideration. If the mother should lose her life during childbirth or decides she does not want to be a mother, the father would then get the same benefits.
15 Slovakia Hasn't Forgotten About The Solo Moms
Slovakia is a relatively newer country. It was formed in 1993 after it split with the Czech Republic. Since the break-up, it has struggled economically. However, they have shown that even countries with an economic struggle can still provide for the families out there.
According to information found on Romper.com, mothers in Slovakia are entitled to 164 weeks of leave at 32% of their income. This may not seem as high as other countries, but it is still equal to 1 year of full salary leave. If a woman is a solo mother, she is also entitled to three more weeks. If she has more than one child, she gets even more time off. They really understand that everyone has a different experience, and therefore has different needs.
14 Austria Has Money To Burn
Austria is known as being one of the most beautiful countries in the world and the host of The Sound of Music. It is also known as one of the richest countries in the world. Due to the amount of money in the country, they have been able to provide great maternity leave for mothers. According to information found on Romper.com, they provide 60 weeks of leave at 85% of wages.
This leave is also considered parental leave and not maternity leave. That means that mom and dad can work out among themselves how they want to work this. Mom and dad can split the time up equally or share it as they see fit. This is a great way to make sure both parents get to experience their little one growing up.
13 Norway Cares About Moms Who Adopt, Too
At the end of the day, a good maternity leave policy is all about showing support for families. It is about encouraging them to thrive by allowing them to have time with their baby and not have to worry about money. According to information found on Romper.com, Norway provides 91 weeks of maternity leave at 49% of the wages.
This leave also covers adoptions as well, according to the Norwegian Labor and Welfare Service. They know that even moms who don’t physically birth their children need time to bond and care with them. They are also working on making sure that dad has the support he needs as well.
12 Slovenia Knows Some Moms Start Having Babies Young
Slovenia has one of the smallest gender wage-gaps in the world, which is a pretty big deal considering the gender climate of the western world. The gap was just 3.2 percent when it was measured in 2015. This shows that they see everyone as equal and treat them that way. According to information found on Romper.com, they offer 52 weeks of maternity leave at 93% of the wages.
If the mother is under 18 and is a student, then the benefits can automatically be switched to the father so that the mother can continue her studies. The country also has a certification program that acknowledges companies that are deemed family-friendly. These companies really care about their employees and their families
11 Finland Is Super Flexible
Finland is the home of one of the world’s oldest cultures, and they really do care for their families and they work hard to provide for them. According to information found on Romper.com, new mothers are allowed 161 weeks of maternity leave at 25% of their wages. Parents can also switch who is watching the child on a weekly or daily basis. This offers great flexibility for mom and dad.
They admit that the people who live in Finland do pay a lot in taxes, but the benefits they receive make it all worth it. The Finnish Ministry of Economic Affairs had this to say, “Families with children are especially well taken care of by society, and their lives are made easier by the many types of support and benefits available.”
10 Australia Seeing Higher Rates Of Breastfeeding Success
Australia may seem like it is on another planet, but it is just a long way away. This also means that their maternity leave is completely different as well. According to Business Insider, moms from Australia get 18 weeks of paid maternity leave at 42% of their salary. This is not a lot of weeks at full-time pay, about 7.5 weeks, but it is a lot better than a lot of other countries.
The early days of motherhood are so important for a lot of things, and it is nice to see countries recognizing the importance. The rates of breastfeeding success in countries with sufficient maternity leave is much higher than those who don’t allow this time for moms.
9 Belgium Knows Moms Love Chocolate
Belgium may be known for their delicious chocolate, but they are also known for their great maternity leave. This allows new moms a lot of time to take their babes out for a walk and get a few good treats every now and then. Chocolate and maternity leave? Count me in!
According to Business Insider, in Belgium, they get 15 weeks of maternity leave paid out at a rate of 64.1% of the pay they were receiving at their previous job. This is about 9.6 weeks of full-time pay. According to Business Insider, moms from Belgium also have the option of taking eight months of part-time leave instead of 15 full weeks. This is a great way to keep a healthy balance.
8 Canada Caring About Loss-Mothers
Canada is the US’s closest friend, and the US could learn a lot from Canada’s maternity leave. The country splits its maternity leave into pregnancy and parental leave. They both equal 52 weeks at 55% of your income. There is now the choice of taking 18 months off with a smaller monthly pay. Since the time is split, it allows adoptive mothers to take parental leave.
It also allows loss-mothers to take time off as well which would be classified under pregnancy leave. This is a great opportunity for a woman to heal. There are a lot of companies out there who also ‘top up’ the leave and may offer additional pay. My past company, for example, paid an extra 25% so I was receiving 75% of my paycheck for a full year.
7 Chile Doesn't Worry So Much About Money
If you want the warm sun and you are expecting, then Chile may be the best place for you. You may want to start packing your bags after you hear what the mothers here get. According to Business Insider, Chile offers new moms 18 weeks of maternity leave at 100% pay. This is a wonderful policy, even if it is not for very long.
It gives moms the chance to spend time with their baby without worrying at all about money. This means mom can spend all of her attention on her new little baby, instead of constantly worrying about finances and the budget. More countries need to adopt Chile’s policy on maternity leave.
6 Costa Rica Coming Through With 100% Of Mom's Income
Costa Rica is another tropical country on this list, but they are not a member of the OECD that we discussed earlier. They still take care of their mothers though, and it shows. According to Business Insider, new moms in Costa Rica are guaranteed 17.3 weeks of fully-paid maternity leave.
This means that they get 100% of their income — each and every penny! This means that they get to spend a lot of time on the beach with their new little baby. It would be interesting to see the statistics on the rates of postpartum depression in countries that allow the opportunity or mothers to stay home with their children worry-free.
5 Croatia Not Forcing Moms To Go Back To Work Early
Croatia is another country in Europe that is beautiful and sees a lot of visitors every year. However, more moms may want to move here after hearing about the kind of leave they get here. They are also not a member of the OECD, but they still take care of their families. Their maternity leave is also well above the average of the OECD.
According to Business Insider, new mom’s in Croatia get 30 weeks of fully-paid leave. That is almost one-year of their full salary pay, almost seven months to be exact. This allows a lot of time for mom and baby to be together, and it makes sure that mom gets to witness a lot of her baby’s milestones and development. Something that is often missed by moms who have to go back to work too early.
4 Moms In Cyprus Enjoy Mat Leave On A Beautiful Island
Cyprus is a beautiful island where anyone would love to live. People often daydream about the thought of living in places like this. They are also not an OECD member, but that doesn’t mean that they forget about their new moms.
According to Business Insider, new moms in Cyprus receive 18 weeks of maternity leave at 75.2% of their salary. That comes out to be about 13.5 weeks of full-time pay. While a lot of these countries have wonderful leave for mothers, the fathers are often left out and are not included. More and more people are urging countries to include paternal leave as well to give dad’s a chance to spend some time with their baby.
3 Denmark Moms Are Eased Into Motherhood
Denmark is another country in the EU that knows exactly how to take care of their families. According to Business Insider, new moms in Denmark get 18 weeks off work and are paid 53.6% of their salary. This works out to be 9.6 weeks at 100% pay.
They break down these weeks though, and they make mothers take four weeks before birth and then the 14 remaining weeks after birth. It can be hard for a woman to go right from work to being a mom, so it is always nice for her to have a chance to relax before the baby comes and her life changes forever. These countries are really looking at the big picture of motherhood.
2 France Wants To Encourage More Women To Have Babies
France is a land of romance, food, and art and it is a dream vacation spot for anyone. Those who call this place home are taken care of when it comes to maternity leave. According to Business Insider, mothers in France get 16 weeks off after the birth of their baby. They are also paid 94.2% of their previous salary. This equals about 15.1 weeks of full-time pay.
Despite these amazing benefits, fewer and fewer people in France are having babies. The birth rate in France is continuing to fall. The birth rate had fallen for the third straight year in the year 2017, and the country is hoping more women start welcoming little babies into their romantic world.
1 Germany Treating Their Moms Right
The last country on our list is Germany. This EU city has a lot of history that is talked about and while some of the history may be negative, the maternity leave is not one of them. According to Business Insider, mothers in Germany are guaranteed to receive 14 weeks of maternity leave at their full salary pay.
This maternity leave policy must be working for the country’s economy because more people are having babies. The birth rate in Germany is at the highest it has ever been in decades. This just proves that if you treat new moms right, they will continue to have babies that will grow up and work for your country.
References: romper.com, insider.com