Maternity Leave Around the World: A Guide for International Employers

Hiring employees overseas will subject your company to host country employment and labor laws, which may be different from your home country rules or company policies. Despite any differences, you will need to comply with the foreign country’s laws, for both local and expat employees.

Go to the profile of Tim Burgess
Apr 08, 2019
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Hiring employees overseas will subject your company to host country employment and labor laws, which may be different from your home country rules or company policies.  Despite any differences, you will need to comply with the foreign country’s laws, for both local and expat employees.

Maternity leave is a statutory entitlement for female employees in many countries. This guide will give you examples of minimum maternity leave requirements in our most commonly enquired about countries, and compare their differences.  While there are sound family and health reasons for maternity leave policies for employees, as an international employer you should be aware of how extended or paid leave can affect your overseas business.

The primary factors that will affect your overall cost and the structure of maternity leave include:

  • The total number of days or weeks allowed before and after delivery
  • The number of days that are paid or unpaid
  • Percentage of wages paid per day
  • Whether the leave days are paid by the employer or by the government

In addition to maternity leave for a new mother, many countries also offer paternal leave (for the father) and parental leave for both parents to care for a newborn child in the first year.  Most of these entitlements require that the employee be in service and making social security contributions for a minimum period such as 3-6 months before they can apply for leave.

Countries with Maternity Leave Entitlements Longer than 16 weeks

If you are hiring employees in any of the following countries, your company should be prepared to shoulder both the cost and length of absence for maternity leave, which can be significant.  The UK leads in total leave time with 39 weeks of paid/semi-paid leave (plus 13 weeks unpaid), followed by India with 26 weeks of fully paid leave. 

In terms of cost however, leave in the UK is government funded (employer pays it and then makes a claim), and after 6 weeks the amount is fairly minimal.  In India the employer bears the entire cost, which means you could be paying full salary for six months during the leave.

UK

  • Total Maternity Leave Entitlement: 52 weeks
  • When that Leave Can be Taken:  Starting 11 weeks prior to the due date
  • Amount of Paid Leave: 39 weeks
  • Percentage of Wages Paid: 90% of wages for the first 6 weeks of leave, then either 90% of wages or 145 BP per week (whichever is less) for the next 33 weeks.
  • Paid by: Social security
  • Amount of Unpaid Leave: 13 weeks
  • Protection from Termination While on Leave: Yes

India

  • Total Maternity Leave Entitlement: 26 weeks (birth) or 12 weeks (adoption)
  • When Leave Can be Taken: up to 8 weeks prior (pre-natal) to the due date
  • Amount of Paid Leave: 26 weeks
  • Percentage of Wages Paid: 100% plus medical bonus (if no health benefits)
  • Paid by: Employer
  • Amount of Unpaid Leave: N/A
  • Protection from Termination While on Leave: Yes

France also has a generous leave policy, especially if there are more than one or two children in the family, but regardless of total leave time only 16 weeks is paid.  Spain has a similar paid leave threshold, and both are paid at 100% of wages by social security, which does lessen the burden for the employer for a potential four month absence.

Japan only offers 14 weeks at 66% of wages, but mothers do have the option to take up to one year of child care leave at 50% of wages, which does make this a generous benefit for employees.  There is an unusual practice in Japan to lessen the burden for the employer, where employees are asked to ‘stagger’ their childbirths and need for maternity leave.

France

  • Total Maternity Leave Entitlement: 16 to 26 weeks depending on number of children
  • When Leave Can be Taken: Six weeks prior to delivery and 10 weeks after
  • Amount of Paid Leave: 16-26 weeks up to the statutory maximum wage
  • Percentage of Wages Paid: 100% of average wage up to 9,933 Euros
  • Paid by: Social Security
  • Amount of Unpaid Leave: N/A but after 16 weeks parental leave is available
  • Protection from Termination While on Leave: Yes

Spain

  • Total Maternity Leave Entitlement: 16 weeks
  • When Leave Can be Taken: Starting up to 10 weeks prior to the due date
  • Amount of Paid Leave: 16 weeks
  • Percentage of Wages Paid: 100>#/em###
  • Paid by: Social security
  • Amount of Unpaid Leave: Up to three years, and up to one year to hold same position at company
  • Protection from Termination While on Leave: Yes, for 9 months following birth

Japan

  • Total Maternity Leave Entitlement: 14 weeks
  • When Leave Can be Taken: Six weeks prior to birth and eight weeks after
  • Amount of Paid Leave: 14 weeks
  • Percentage of Wages Paid: 66>#/em###
  • Paid by: Social security
  • Amount of Unpaid Leave: N/A but may take up to one year of child care leave, paid at 50% of wages
  • Protection from Termination While on Leave: Yes

Countries wit Maternity Leave Entitlements Shorter than 16 weeks

The following countries offer between 12 and 16 weeks of maternity leave, with the US being the least generous, offering only 12 weeks of unpaid leave, and no protection from termination.  In contrast, Canada offers 15 weeks, but only paid at 55% of wages by social insurance.

US

  • Total Maternity Leave Entitlement: 12 weeks (limited application to companies with more than 50 employees)
  • When Leave Can be Taken: Following childbirth
  • Amount of Paid Leave: N/A
  • Percentage of Wages Paid: N/A
  • Paid by: Employer maintains health benefits
  • Amount of Unpaid Leave: up to 12 weeks
  • Protection from Termination While on Leave: No

Canada

  • Total Maternity Leave Entitlement: 15 weeks
  • When Leave Can be Taken: Up to 2 weeks prior to delivery, as the benefit ends 17 weeks after birth
  • Amount of Paid Leave: 15 weeks
  • Percentage of Wages Paid: 55% up to CAD 562 per week
  • Paid by: Government Employment Insurance
  • Amount of Unpaid Leave: N/A but parental leave available up to 69 weeks
  • Protection from Termination While on Leave: Yes

The US and Canada are the least costly for the employer, compared to Thailand and Singapore which require the employer to pay at least half of the leave at 100% of wages.  Singapore also allows the employee to take an additional period of unpaid leave of up to one year...read more

Shield GEO makes international employment simple. Our customers use Shield GEO to employ and payroll hundreds of workers in over fifty countries. Find out more. 


Go to the profile of Tim Burgess

Tim Burgess

Director, Shield GEO Services Ltd

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