Insights into global expansion & employee retention

Published: October 12, 2023

What Are the Best Countries for Maternity Leave?

Explore the World's Best Maternity Leave Policies. From Bulgaria's gold standard to Croatia, Greece, and beyond, discover the top 13 countries setting benchmarks for maternity leave. Join us in celebrating nations championing the rights of mothers and fostering a balanced society.

Key Takeaways

Maternity leave is a key component of supporting families and women’s rights, and its entitlements vary significantly worldwide. Understanding your rights and benefits before taking maternity leave is critical because it involves choosing between paid or unpaid leave, job protection, and health benefits. The U.S. notably lacks guaranteed paid maternity leave, relying on the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for unpaid leave. On the other hand, countries like Bulgaria, Croatia, and Greece offer generous maternity leave benefits, emphasising the need for a balanced society and the important role mothers’ play.

In an era where work-life balance and women’s rights are at the forefront of global discourse, maternity leave stands as a testament to a nation’s commitment to its families. 

While some countries grapple with the basics of maternity benefits, others have set commendable standards, ensuring mothers are well-supported during this pivotal phase. 

Maternity leave benefits are a fundamental part of the journey into motherhood, but it’s important to note that these benefits can vary significantly from one country to another. Understanding your rights and benefits during maternity leave is essential. It often involves a choice between paid or unpaid leave, job protection, and the duration of your time off, as well as potential health benefits. Some countries may also offer additional support through paid family leave, flexible work arrangements, and the right to take time off for prenatal appointments. Furthermore, individual company policies can add to or modify these benefits. Therefore, comprehending the intricacies of maternity leave benefits in your specific location is crucial for making informed decisions and ensuring a smooth transition into motherhood. Always seek guidance from your HR department or legal experts to obtain precise information tailored to your unique situation.

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A Quick Look at the US Perspective

The United States, one of the world’s leading economies and influencers in global policies, presents an intriguing contrast. It stands alone as the only country in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity, paternity, or parental leave. 

Instead of a federally mandated policy, any paid parental leave becomes either an employer’s prerogative or is deducted from an employee’s personal or sick leave.

Although the World Health Organization recommends a minimum of 16 weeks of maternity leave, the U.S. guarantees none. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) allows new mothers in organizations with at least 50 employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period. 

However, several conditions, such as having worked a minimum of 1,250 hours in the preceding 12 months, apply. A few states have recognized this gap and instituted their own supportive legislation. Yet, despite state-level strides, the number of U.S. women taking maternity leave has seen little change over the past two decades.

With this backdrop, let’s delve into the top 13 countries that offer the best maternity leave in the world, championing the rights of mothers.

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13 Countries Offering the Best Maternity Leave in the World

1. Bulgaria

In Bulgaria, the essence of motherhood is deeply respected and cherished. The nation has set a gold standard in terms of paid maternity leave, surpassing many of its global counterparts. Bulgarian policies are not just about quantity, but quality and Bulgaria leads in terms of offering the best maternity leave in the world.

By offering a vast 58.6 weeks of maternity leave at a remarkable 90% average payment rate, Bulgaria ensures that new mothers are well-supported both emotionally and financially during this critical period.

  • Length: 58.6 weeks
  • Average Payment Rate: 90%
  • Full Rate Equivalent: 52.7%

2. Croatia

Croatia stands as a testament to the balance between work and motherhood. The country acknowledges the importance of the early bonding phase between a mother and her child.

Recognizing the challenges that new mothers face, Croatia offers a full payment rate, allowing mothers to recuperate and enjoy the early days of motherhood without fiscal worries, making it one of the top countries offering the best maternity leave in the world.

  • Length: 30 weeks
  • Average Payment Rate: 100%
  • Full Rate Equivalent: 30%

3. Greece

Even amidst economic turbulence, Greece prioritizes the well-being of its citizens, especially new mothers. This Mediterranean nation goes beyond just a basic maternity leave policy, offering an extended 43 weeks to its mothers – making it one of the top countries offering the best maternity leave in the world.

The leave’s duration, combined with a reasonable payment rate, allows Greek women ample opportunity to both recover post-childbirth and bond with their newborns.

  • Length: 43 weeks
  • Average Payment Rate: 65.1%
  • Full Rate Equivalent: 28%

4. Slovak Republic

The Slovak Republic embodies the essence of valuing family and motherhood. With its generous maternity leave policy, the country sends a clear message: the initial days of motherhood are invaluable and should be treasured. 

Mothers in the Slovak Republic can enjoy this phase without financial constraints, thanks to the nation’s maternity leave policies.

  • Length: 34 weeks
  • Average Payment Rate: 75%
  • Full Rate Equivalent: 25.5%

5. Hungary

Hungary’s approach to maternity leave is both progressive and compassionate. The country realizes that the early days of motherhood are both beautiful and challenging, which is why is ranks as number five on the list of countries that offer the best maternity leave in the world.

By offering a full payment rate for a generous 24 weeks, Hungary ensures that mothers have the necessary support during this transformative phase.

  • Length: 24 weeks
  • Average Payment Rate: 100%
  • Full Rate Equivalent: 24%

6. Czech Republic

In the heart of Europe, the Czech Republic showcases a blend of tradition and modernity. This ethos is reflected in their maternity leave policy. 

Recognizing the importance of both family and career, the Czech Republic has designed its policy to ensure that mothers don’t have to compromise on either front.

  • Length: 28 weeks
  • Average Payment Rate: 63.7%
  • Full Rate Equivalent: 17.8%

7. Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s maternity policy reflects its broader commitment to social welfare. The Central American nation, renowned for its biodiversity and emphasis on well-being, extends this philosophy to its maternity leave. 

By providing an impressive full payment rate for over 17 weeks, Costa Rica stands as an example for nations worldwide.

  • Length: 17.3 weeks
  • Average Payment Rate: 100%
  • Full Rate Equivalent: 17.3%

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8. Italy

Italy, with its rich history and family-centric culture, understands the pivotal role of a mother in the family structure. Thus, the nation’s maternity leave policy is a reflection of this deep-rooted respect. 

Offering over 21 weeks of leave with an 80% payment rate, Italy ensures that its mothers can transition into this new life phase seamlessly.

  • Length: 21.7 weeks
  • Average Payment Rate: 80%
  • Full Rate Equivalent: 17.4%

9. Iceland

Nestled in the North Atlantic, Iceland is often heralded for its stunning landscapes and progressive socio-political structures. 

But beyond the geysers and Northern Lights, this nation ensures a solid foundation for its families. Icelandic mothers are granted a considerable maternity leave, valuing the essence of initial bonding and recovery after childbirth. 

A mix of generous payment rates and extended weeks ensures a mother’s comfort and peace of mind.

  • Length: 26 weeks
  • Average Payment Rate: 71.3%
  • Full Rate Equivalent: 18.5%

10. Chile

Located on the edge of South America with its vast coastlines and Andean peaks, Chile is not only geographically diverse but also demonstrates a commitment to nurturing its next generation. 

Recognizing the essence of early maternal care, the nation ensures that mothers can take time off work without the burden of financial strain. Chile’s robust policies are evidence of its emphasis on family welfare.

  • Length: 18 weeks
  • Average Payment Rate: 100%
  • Full Rate Equivalent: 18%

11. Colombia

A South American gem, Colombia’s vibrant culture, and rich traditions get even more profound when we examine its approach to maternity. 

Prioritizing the well-being of mothers and newborns, the nation provides ample time for mothers to recover, bond, and adapt to their new roles and ranks at number 11 on the list of countries offering the best maternity leave in the world.

The extended period, coupled with a full payment rate, speaks volumes about Colombia’s dedication to its families.

  • Length: 18 weeks
  • Average Payment Rate: 100%
  • Full Rate Equivalent: 18%

12. Norway

Nestled in the heart of Scandinavia, Norway’s commitment to social welfare is globally recognized. The fjord-laden nation believes in a holistic approach to family care. 

From early parental education to substantial maternity leave policies, Norway ensures mothers get the rest, recovery, and bonding time they deserve without a financial hiccup.

  • Length: 18 weeks
  • Average Payment Rate: 100%
  • Full Rate Equivalent: 18%

13. Luxembourg

Luxembourg, often touted for its high standard of living and vibrant culture, doesn’t fall behind when it comes to offering the best maternity leave in the world.

The nation ensures that childbirth is not a time of stress but a period of joy and anticipation. Mothers in Luxembourg are supported wholeheartedly, ensuring they can embrace motherhood without the shadow of financial worries looming over them.

  • Length: 20 weeks
  • Average Payment Rate: 100%
  • Full Rate Equivalent: 20%

While the metrics of maternity leave vary across countries, the essence remains the same – to provide mothers the time and resources to recuperate, bond, and adapt to a new phase in life. 

The nations on this list understand and acknowledge the profound journey of motherhood, ensuring mothers are neither financially nor emotionally burdened during this transformative period. 

In the quest for a balanced society, these countries lead by example, setting benchmarks for others to follow.

Learn About Maternity Benefits in 180+ Countries.

Becoming a mother is a life-changing experience – it can be both joyful and uncertain and preparing is a critical part of the journey. But the process can be complex, and even more so when the policies differ for maternity leave by country. Let’s explore 4 tips to help you navigate it with ease.

  1. Plan Ahead: Before your due date, it’s crucial to plan your maternity leave. Communicate with your employer and understand the process. This can include knowing the start and end dates of your leave, potential handovers, and any necessary paperwork.
  2. Know Your Rights: Maternity leave benefits can vary dramatically depending on where you live. Some countries provide extensive paid leave, while others offer minimal support. Research your local laws and your employer’s policies to ensure you understand what you’re entitled to.
  3. Communicate with Your Employer: Open communication with your employer is key. Discuss your maternity leave plans early and work together to ensure a smooth transition. This can include considerations for how to cover your responsibilities during your absence.
  4. Explore Flexible Options: Some employers may offer flexible work arrangements that can help ease your return to work. Part-time work, telecommuting, or job-sharing can provide a smoother transition after maternity leave.

Playroll, a Global Employer of Record can help your business navigate maternity leave compliantly. With extensive expertise in labour laws and regulations in over 180 countries across the globe and dedicate legal representatives.

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