Maternity Leave Around the World

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The majority of developed countries across the globe guarantee maternity leave to new mothers, which typically begins before a woman gives birth and lasts for several weeks following.  Many countries are now offering paternity leave, as well as making their policies more flexible to include parents who have adopted, and same-sex couples.  

Globe Maternity Leave


Croatia: Croatia tops the lists of maternity leave policies around the world. They offer the longest period of paid leave in the world, 406 days (this includes maternal and paternal leave). Both parents are entitled to 8 months of paid leave but can choose to extend this leave and keep their former jobs.

Japan: In Japan all women are guaranteed maternity leave, this includes 6 weeks prior to giving birth and 8 weeks following birth. During a mother’s leave, companies must pay up to two-thirds of the woman’s base salary.

Sweden: Sweden is widely known for their generous maternity and paternity leave standards.  If there are two parents involved in the birth of a child they are both guaranteed paid leave.  Between mothers and fathers they are given 480 days of paid leave, 60 of those days being reserved for the father or parent who is not the primary caregiver.

France: Currently, France offers 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, which can begin prior to giving birth.  The maternity leave is extended for mothers of twins and triplets. Fathers are given 11 days paid leave and can opt to take up to 6 months, depending on what the couple chooses.

Spain: Mothers in Spain are automatically given 16 weeks, fully paid, maternity leave, and fathers are given 4 weeks paid.  Breastfeeding mothers are also given one hour off each day to feed their babies.  

Australia: Australia does not have maternity leave. Instead, there is “parental leave” of up to 18 weeks. During these 18 weeks, either the mothers or the fathers can take government-paid leave or they can even split the 18 weeks between them. In addition, your job in Australia is protected for up to a year after childbirth.

USA: The United States is the only developed country that does not offer a paid maternity leave policy. Additionally, the policy is not inclusive of small businesses, part-time workers, fathers, couples who are adopting, nor same-sex couples. Currently the policy allows women to take up to 12 weeks off of work, after giving birth, but the leave is unpaid. A lot of couples cannot afford to take this time off from work, especially when they are anticipating costs of having a child, this forces many women to return to work before they are ready.

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