Knowledge Center

Family Leave in Canada

  • Female employees are entitled to a standard 17 weeks unpaid, job-protected maternity leave. In addition, both male and female employees are granted up to 37 weeks unpaid, job-protected parental leave (35 weeks for women if being combined with maternity leave for a total of 52 weeks) in order to care for a newborn or newly adopted child.1
  • If unable to work as a result of sickness, injury or quarantine, an employee may be entitled to a "sickness benefit" from the Canadian Government of up to 55% of previous average insured earnings. This "sickness benefit" may become payable two weeks after earnings are interrupted due to an inability to work and provides benefit of up to 15 weeks of loss of earnings due to sickness. A combination of pregnancy, parental and sickness benefits can be received up to a combined maximum of 50 weeks.2

Family Leave in the United States

  • The United States is one of the few industrialized nations that do not provide paid family leave for new parents. Some parents can take time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which guarantees eligible employees at companies with more than 50 employees 12 weeks of unpaid, job-guaranteed leave for the birth of a child or care of a newborn, adoption of a child, to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition, or to take medical leave for a serious health condition. Similar statutes exist in Washington D.C. and some states: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin. California became the first state to enact a paid family leave act in 2002, allowing employees to take 6 weeks leave up to 55% of their weekly wages (with a benefit cap) to care for a newborn, newly adopted child, or sick family member, and every employee who contributes to the State Disability Insurance is covered, not just those in companies with 50 employees or more. Although some individual companies offer a paid maternity leave benefit, many parents end up using a combination of short-term disability, sick leave, vacation, personal days, and unpaid family leave.3 4 5


Mothers’ Labor Force Participation in the United States

  • 60.6% of women with children under 3 years old were in the labor force in 2011. 55.8% of women with children under 1 year old were participating in the labor force.6
  • In 2011, mothers in the labor force with children under 3 years were 7.9% of all women participating in the labor force.7

Family Leave in the United States

  • A 2011 benefits survey of companies that are members of the Society for Human Resource Management found that in 2011:
    • 16.0% offered paid maternity leave beyond what is covered by short-term disability, down from 17.0% in 2010.8
    • 16.0% offered paid paternity leave, down from 17.0% in 2010.9
    • 25.0% offered paid family leave, up from 24.0% in 2010.10
    • 21.0% offered family leave above and beyond the required federal FMLA leave, up from 20.0% in 2010.11
    • 18.0% offered family leave above and beyond their required state FMLA leave, down from 19.0% in 2010.12
    • 16.0% offered paid adoption leave, the same as in 2010.13


A briefing paper from the Center for Economic Policy Research found that less than 30.0% of mothers took paid maternity leave:14

LEAVES AND OTHER ACTIONS UPON BIRTH OF FIRST CHILD15
Paid maternity leave 28.5%
Other paid leave used for maternity (including sick leave, disability, and vacation) 18.4%
Unpaid maternity leave 25.9%
Quit 14.3%
Let go 2.0%
Did not stop working 1.8%

 

Family Leave Around the World

 

MATERNITY LEAVE POLICIES

Australia

Paid parental leave (government funded) began January 1, 2011. Up to 18 weeks paid at the national minimum wage.16
China The minimum length of maternity leave was increased in May 2012 to 98 days.17
Germany Germany took up such a system of parental leave benefit, the so-called Elterngeld, on January 1st 2007, replacing a much less generous system called Erziehungsgeld. The new Elterngeld offers a 67 per cent replacement rate of previous labor earnings (from employment or self-employment) for either father or mother for up to 12 months postpartum. If both father and mother participate, they can receive an extra 2 months, and the resulting total leave of 14 months can be freely distributed between the two parents. Single parents can receive a total of 14 months alone. The transfer is truncated at a maximum of 1800 Euros per month, and a flat rate minimum of 300 Euros per month is paid to every parent who has no previous earnings.18
Italy Maternity leave lasts for five months (these weeks are paid at 80% of mother’s usual salary). Additional parental leave lasts six months per parent (with a maximum of 11 months per child), and parents receive 30% of their usual salary.19
Japan Mothers in Japan are guaranteed leave for 14 weeks maternity leave, including six mandatory weeks post-childbirth. Pay depends upon employer and various other elements. In addition, mothers have access to child care leave, which lasts until the child’s first birthday.20
Netherlands Women receive a guaranteed 16 weeks paid maternity leave (Six weeks before and 10 weeks after childbirth). In addition, women can take 13 weeks of full-time leave or six months of part-time leave before their child’s eighth birthday.21
New Zealand Mothers can take up to 14 weeks of paid maternity leave, and special leave, which consists of up to 10 days for pregnancy-related medical care. In addition, both mothers and fathers can share up to 52 weeks of extended leave (though mother’s paid maternity leave counts towards the total number of weeks).22
Norway Nine weeks compulsory maternity leave, 100% salary. May also take parental leave for 44 additional weeks at 100% salary. May also take an additional year of unpaid leave.23
Russia Women receive 140 days, 70 of which are to be taken prior to birth, with 70 taken after birth, with up to 100% of salary at a ceiling. The maternity leave is mandatory.24
Spain Mothers can take 16 weeks paid maternity leave, six of which must be taken, immediately after birth. If they wish, mothers can transfer some or all of the optional ten weeks leave to the father, if eligible. In addition, upon return to their same position, employers must provide returning mothers with two paid, half-hour breaks for breastfeeding the first nine months after childbirth. In addition, mothers and fathers can each take up to three years of child-care leave, and parents receive the right to work part-time until their child’s eighth birthday.25
Sweden Mothers receive 14 weeks of maternity leave; seven weeks may be taken before childbirth and seven after, and two weeks are mandatory. In addition, parents may take 18 months of parental leave. In addition, until their end of their child’s first year of school or eighth birthdays, parents can request to reduce their working hours (and salary) by up to 25%.26
Switzerland Mothers receive 14 weeks of job-protected maternity leave, at 80% salary. Swiss mothers are not allowed to return to work within eight weeks of childbirth. For the first year post-childbirth, mothers must be provided with access to a nursing room, and be able to take nursing breaks of one hour.27
UK 26 weeks of Ordinary Maternity Leave and 26 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave making one year in total. The combined 52 weeks is known as Statutory Maternity Leave. A recent amendment makes it mandatory for women to take a minimum of two weeks’ maternity leave immediately after childbirth (four weeks’ minimum for factory workers).28  Pregnant employees may also be eligible for a Sure Start Maternity Grant, a one-time, tax-free payment, offered to low income mothers to buy supplies for the baby, which does not have to be paid back.29

 

PATERNITY LEAVE POLICIES
Australia 18 weeks paid at national minimum wage by government. Can be transferred to either parent.30
Germany Germany took up such a system of parental leave benefit, the so-called Elterngeld, on January 1st 2007, replacing a much less generous system called Erziehungsgeld. The new Elterngeld offers a 67 per cent replacement rate of previous labor earnings (from employment or self-employment) for either father or mother for up to 12 months postpartum. If both father and mother participate, they can receive an extra 2 months, and the resulting total leave of 14 months can be freely distributed between the two parents. Single parents can receive a total of 14 months alone. The transfer is truncated at a maximum of 1800 Euros per month, and a flat rate minimum of 300 Euros per month is paid to every parent who has no previous earnings.31
Italy No paternity leave. Additional parental leave lasts six months per parent (with a maximum of 11 months per child), and parents receive 30% of their usual salary.32
Japan There is no paternity leave in Japan. Fathers can utilize child care leave, which lasts until a child’s first birthday.33
Netherlands Fathers receive 2 days, 100% salary. Fathers also have access to taking 13 weeks of full-time leave or six months of part-time leave prior to the child’s eighth birthday.34
New Zealand New fathers can take up to two weeks of partner’s leave, which is not paid. In addition, both mothers and fathers can share up to 52 weeks of extended leave.35
Norway Fathers receive at minimum, two weeks unpaid leave, and 54 weeks six weeks paid leave. In addition, fathers can also have two additional weeks of unpaid leave, and can opt in on an additional, unpaid year of leave before the child’s third birthday.36
Spain Fathers receive two to four days paid leave, plus an additional 13 calendar days of paternity leave. Unused maternity leave can be transferred to the father. In addition, mothers and fathers can each take up to three years of child-care leave, and parents receive the right to work part-time until their child’s eighth birthday.37
Sweden New fathers can take ten workdays of paternity leave within 60 days after the birth of a child. In addition, couples who share parental leave share a “gender equality bonus” of up to 3,000 SEK per month. In addition, parents may take 18 months of parental leave. In addition, until their end of their child’s first year of school or eighth birthdays, parents can request to reduce their working hours (and salary) by up to 25%.38
Switzerland No paternal leave exists, but all workers with family obligations can request lunch breaks of up to 90 minutes and may refuse overtime.39
UK If employees meet the qualifications, fathers are eligible for Ordinary Paternity Leave (paid) for two consecutive weeks. In addition, 26 weeks of Additional Paternity Leave are available on top of the two weeks Ordinary Leave.40

 

ADOPTION LEAVE POLICIES
Australia 18 weeks paid at national minimum wage by government. Can be taken anytime within the first year after adoption. Can be transferred to either parent.41
Germany There is no adoptive leave, but parents can utilize three years parental leave (at 67% usual salary).42
Italy Once the child is placed, three months of leave may be taken, if the child is not yet six years old.43
Japan Adoption leave does not exist in Japan, but new adoptive parents can utilize child-care leave, which lasts until a child’s first birthday.44
Netherlands Four weeks leave for each new parent. In addition, parents can also receive an additional 13 weeks full-time leave or six months part-time leave before the child’s eighth birthday.45
New Zealand Adoptive parents receive maternity and partner’s leave, and parents can choose which partner will be the primary caregiver (who will receive 14 weeks of paid leave) and which parent will use one to two weeks leave.  Parents can also share extended 52 weeks of leave.46
Norway Adoptive parents receive the same paid maternity and paternity leaves as birth parents, but the total time available is reduced by three weeks. Adoptive parents have six weeks each, and can also utilize the unpaid year-long parental leave.47
Spain In couples, one adoptive parent will receive 16 weeks leave and the other receives 13 days of leave. Adoption leave typically begins with the first day the child is with their new family.48
Sweden Eighteen months upon arrival of child.49
UK Adoptees who meet conditions can take up to 26 weeks of Ordinary Adoption Leave, as well as 26 weeks of Additional Adoption Leave. Begins on the day the child becomes a resident of the household, or up to fourteen days prior.50

 

How to cite this product: Catalyst. Catalyst Quick Take: Family Leave - U.S., Canada, and Global. New York: Catalyst, 2013.