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This Is How Much Leave New Parents Get In Countries Around The World

If you're in the UK, you've got it far better than the Americans – but nowhere near as good as in Russia or Germany.

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A total of 365 days can be shared between the two parents; the mother must take the first two weeks. Fathers are eligible for two weeks' paternity leave as well. Parental leave is 90% of weekly pay or £139 per week, whichever is lower.


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This is the federal provision. Some states have different regulations. All employees – male or female – are entitled to 12 weeks unpaid job-protected leave after the birth of a child, unless they are in the top 10% of earners at their workplace and their employer can show that their loss would cause real damage to the company. There is no mandatory paid leave for either parent.



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Mothers receive up to 18 weeks' maternity leave at the national minimum wage. Fathers receive two weeks' paternity leave at the national minimum wage. Either parent can take unpaid leave for up to one year.


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Mothers get 15 weeks' maternity pay, then the two parents can share out up to 35 weeks' parental leave between them. Pay is at 55% of full salary, up to a given maximum.


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Mothers receive maternity pay at 100% of their salary, up to a given ceiling, for 16 weeks – 26 weeks if it's their third (or later) child. Fathers receive paternity pay at 100% of their salary, up to a given ceiling, for 11 days.

Employees who have more than a year's service at their company can also take unlimited time off up to the child's third birthday. This can be split between the parents if both have reached a year's service. We haven't included that in the graph as it isn't available to all workers.


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Both parents receive full pay during the period of their leave (120 days for women, five days for men). Maternity leave is 180 days for state employees; private companies can offer the same and offset the payments to the mother against tax.


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Six weeks of maternity leave must be taken by the mother. Up to a further eight weeks of paid leave can be taken by either parent. Either parent can then take up to a further 12 weeks' unpaid leave. All paid leave is at 100% of salary.



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Mothers get leave at full pay for six weeks before the birth of their child and six weeks after. Fathers get two weeks' leave at full pay at any point in the first six months of the child's life.

The Netherlands

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Mothers receive 16 weeks of maternity leave at 100% of their salary (up to a maximum ceiling). Fathers get two days' fully paid paternity leave. The two parents can then share up to four weeks of paid parental leave, and a longer 13-week unpaid period which can be taken at any point up to the child's eighth birthday.


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Mothers are entitled to five months' maternity leave at full pay, two months prenatal and three postnatal. The two parents can then share a further 11 months' parental leave, up to six months per parent, non-transferable, six months of which is payable at 30% of full salary.



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Employees are entitled to full pay for an entire year. They can take that pay over a 59-week period at 80% pay if they prefer. Both mother and father have 10 weeks exclusively for them which cannot be transferred; the rest can be shared between them however they like.


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The two parents can share up to 480 days between them, of which two months are exclusively for either parent and cannot be transferred. For the first 390 days parents receive 80% of their salary; the remainder is paid at a flat rate. The days can be taken at any point up until the child is 8 years old.


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Mothers are entitled to four weeks' pregnancy leave and 14 weeks' maternity leave; fathers get two weeks' paternity leave. Then the two parents can share up to 46 weeks of parental leave. Parents can receive up to 52 weeks' pay either from the government or through arrangement with their employers.


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Parents can have as much time off as they like in the first three years of their child's life. The mother can receive full pay for six weeks before the birth of the child, and eight weeks after. Either parent can take up to a year off at 65% of full pay.



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Mothers are entitled to 10 weeks' pregnancy pay and 10 weeks' maternity pay at 100% of salary. After that, parents can take as much time off as they like up to the child's third birthday, at 40% pay for the first 18 months.

Let's look at how those countries compare. Here's how many days of leave mothers are legally allowed to take – whether paid or unpaid.

Some observations:

• The USA is the only country in the developed world not to have any mandatory paid leave for mothers.

• Until 1993, it had no federal requirement to offer unpaid leave either.

• Every European country we looked at allows parents to split some or all of their leave between them. (In France, this only applies to parents who've worked for a year or more at a company before the birth.)

• Sweden and Iceland offer long breaks (two and three months respectively) that are exclusively for fathers and cannot be transferred to the mothers. In Sweden, these "daddy months" have been found to increase the father's participation in childcare.

• Sweden and the Netherlands allow part of the parental leave to be taken at any point until the child's eighth birthday. Germany and Russia allow any amount of leave to be taken up to the child's third birthday. Most other countries only allow time off work in the first year of parenthood.

NOTE: In some countries, "paternity" pay and leave applies to same-sex female partners as well as fathers, and some countries issue maternity leave and pay to the primary caregiver rather than the biological mother. For simplicity, we've referred to both as paternity/maternity and father/mother.

Tom Chivers is a science writer for BuzzFeed and is based in London.

Contact Tom Chivers at

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