Parental Leave Around the World

Parental Leave Around the World

This post contains affiliate links.

When you buy something using these retail links, we may get a commission.

Have you ever thought about how different the laws are in other countries?

Also, the laws concerning maternity leaves.

Parental leave may mean maternity, paternity or adoption leave that is the employee benefit which is available in most countries. Paid parental leave provides paid time off work to make arrangements or to care for a child.

The 3 most common models of funding are:

  • government-mandated social security/social insurance (taxpayers contribute to a specific public fund)
  • employer liability (the employer pays the employee for the length of leave)
  • mixed policies (social security + employer liability)

The only countries in the United Nations that do not require employers to guarantee paid time off for new parents are Suriname, Papua New Guinea, a few island countries in the Pacific Ocean and the United States.


As of 2018 the United States of America does not have nationwide laws that guarantee paid parental leave to its workforce. However,  New Jersey, California, Rhode Island, New York, Massachusetts, Washington, Connecticut, Oregon and the District of Columbia have enacted laws that grant parental leave.


Canadian government (except Quebec) covers up to 15  weeks of maternity leave and 35 weeks of parental leave. There is also extended option of 60 weeks with lower payments available.

Quebec suggests about 18-15 weeks of paid maternity leave and up to 32 weeks of parental leave.


The Australian government provides paid family leave for both parents. As in most part of the world, in Australia women spend more time doing unpaid work (like parenting) compared to men.


In 2016 paid parental leave was extended to a minimum of 128 days. It happened when the long-standing one-child policy was replaced with a policy that encourages couples to have two children. This extension of paid maternity leave aims to slow the population aging process and increase fertility rates.

Nordic countries

Gender equality has also been on the political agenda of these countries for decades. All the countries have extended the total leave period, although their policies towards father’s quota are different.

In Iceland, each parent receives paid leaves, and an additional three months can be divided between them however they like.

In Sweden, each parent gets at least 90 days of parental leave and these 90 days cannot be transferred from one parent to the other.  In total, Sweden offers 480 days of parental leave. It is interesting that these days can be used up until the child is 12.

The only Nordic country that does not provide fathers with a quota is Denmark, where women have the right to four weeks parent leave before giving birth and 14 weeks leave after giving birth. Thereafter, 32 weeks of parent leave are voluntarily divided between the man and the woman, making eight months leave entirely up to the family to decide.

As of 2021, here are the countries with the most maternity leave:

Back to top