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East Versus West: How Countries Fare On Parental Leave Across The World

Source | LinkedIn : By Neha Bagaria

Maternity leave is a basic labour right accorded by the International Labour Organisation, stipulating a minimum of 14 weeks maternity leave through the Maternity Protection Convention, 2000. About 53% (98) of countries meet this minimum requirement.

There is also an increasing need to focus on parental leave, where the burden of child care is shared between mothers and fathers. Companies and countries that recognise the benefits of parental leave over maternity leave are far ahead of the curve, and set an inspiring example. We explore some in this article.

European Utopia

The world could learn a thing or two from Europe, where many countries offer an extra cushion of time to both parents, as their child grows. Many EU countries have taken the initiative, recognising that such benefits for employees affect overall quality of life and work. Countries that have made both paternity and maternity leave mandatory in some form, are not biased towards women because the economic cost of parenting is distributed equally between both parents – not just the mother. The implementation of such policies is changing the discourse and social norms around caring for children, by providing incentives for fathers to take paternity leave.

Sweden, for example, lets each parent take 8.5 weeks and then split an additional 52 weeks between them. Working parents are paid about 78% of their earnings for the first 56 weeks. Timewise, France and Germany are the most generous, offering three years, although most of it isn’t paid. In France, employees earn on average roughly 600 euros a month for six months of parental leave. In Germany, a family is paid 67% of earnings for 12 months. Austria allows up to 104 weeks off and has five compensation options to choose from.

Career Break A Setback, A U.K. Study Finds

While the U.K. offers up to 52 weeks, or a whole year as Statutory Maternity Leave, not all of it is paid leave. Statutory Maternity Pay is paid for up to 39 weeks, and does not mean employees get paid in full for the entire duration of leave. Companies in the U.K. are obligated to welcome the employee back to her original job after her maternity leave, ensuring that the employee has a job to return to.

A recent report from the parliamentary group on women and work says that many women in the U.K. fear returning to work after a career break, because they believe that the gap in their CVs alienates employers. While more companies in recent years have put in place returnship programmes, many women “cited the cost of childcare and the lack of a clear way back as key obstacles to returning to work”.

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