Topic:
FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE;
Location:
FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE;

OLR Research Report


December 3, 1999

 

99-R-1214

BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON

EUROPEAN AND CANADIAN PARENTAL LEAVE LAWS

 
 

By: Laura Jordan, Research Attorney

You asked us to provide background information on European and Canadian parental leave laws, including their history, eligibility requirements, the duration of allowed leave, the amount of any cash assistance, and how paid parental leave is funded.

SUMMARY

We surveyed the 19 Western European countries and Canada. All of the surveyed countries provide maternity leave job protection and paid parental leave (Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, England, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland). Nine countries mandate pre- or post-natal maternity leave. Seven restrict parental leave to women.

Between 1891 and the 1920's six countries enacted laws requiring pregnant women to take pre- or post-natal leave (France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, and Sweden). Finland, Greece, and Switzerland enacted such laws in 1963, 1969, and 1980 respectively. Many countries began enacting job protection laws in the 1960's and several countries enacted their laws in the 1980's. Sweden enacted the first paid parental leave law in 1891. The majority of countries enacted such laws in the 1970's and 1980's. A few adopted them in the 1960's.

The amount of time that a country provides job-protection for parents taking leave ranges from a few months to three years. In general, surveyed countries provide paid leave for between 15 weeks to one and 1/3 years, with 16 to 20 weeks being the most common duration.

The amount of paid leave benefits varies. One country provides a flat rate. Another allows government-sponsored insurance companies and insured individuals to establish the income replacement amount. The remainder replaces a percentage of an employee's earnings up to an established maximum (although several countries do not appear to have a maximum). The percentages range from a low of 50% (Greece) to a high of 100% (e.g., France and Norway). Seven countries replace 100% of income; two replace 90%; four replace 80%; one replaces 75%; two replace 70%; one replaces 55%; and one replaces 50%.

Governments (through social insurance systems) and employers and employees (through payroll taxes) share the cost of providing paid parental leave benefits. In a few countries (Germany, Italy, and Luxembourg) the government funds the entire cost. In Switzerland employee insurance premiums fund the entire cost.

EUROPEAN AND CANADIAN PARENTAL LEAVE LAWS

ANDORRA

Eligibility. A parent must have contributed to the social insurance system for at least six months prior to the child's due date and must have been employed for at least three months before this date.

Cash benefit. Benefits last six months. A parent receives a daily amount equal to 90% of 1/180 of his earnings for the six months prior to stopping work.

Funding. Parental leave benefits are funded through employer and employee payroll taxes.

AUSTRIA

History. Austria enacted its first pregnancy leave law in 1960.

Eligibility. Only women may take leave. They must work for a covered employer. In general, only public and railroad employees, who are covered under a different system, are not covered.

Leave duration. Austrian law prohibits pregnant women from working for eight weeks prior to their due date and for eight weeks after they give birth. A woman's job is protected for 67 weeks after she gives birth.

Cash benefit. Women receive 100% of their wages, up to 42,600 schillings (approximately $3,550) a month, for the 16 weeks of leave that the law requires them to take.

Funding. The Austrian government pays 70% of cash maternity benefits. Employer and employee contributions fund the remainder.

BELGIUM

History. Belgium enacted its first maternity leave law in 1960.

Eligibility. Only women may take parental leave. They must work for a covered employer for at least six months prior to taking maternity leave.

Leave duration. Women may take up to six months of leave, 15 weeks of which are paid.

Cash benefit. Salaried employees receive 82% of their earnings for the first month. Unemployed women receive 79.5% of their most recent salary for the first month. For the remaining 11 weeks, women receive 75% of their earnings. Benefits are payable beginning seven weeks before a woman's due date and eight weeks after birth.

Funding. Employer and employee payroll taxes fund the benefits. The government subsidizes the management of the social security system, which administers the benefits.

CANADA

History. Since 1969, Canadian law has protected a woman's job if she takes parental leave. It has provided paid parental leave since 1979. Since January 1997 Canada's unemployment insurance system, rather than its social insurance system, has provided parental leave cash benefits.

Eligibility. Either parent may take parental leave. A worker must have at least 700 hours (17.5 weeks) of insured employment in the prior 52 weeks to be eligible. A woman may receive benefits if she is pregnant, has recently given birth, is adopting a child, or is caring for a newborn baby.

Leave Duration. Canadian law allows parents to take a total of 17 weeks of leave, 15 of which are paid. The 17-week period may be delayed in certain circumstances and may begin (1) up to eight weeks before a mother's due date or (2) any time within the first year that the child is born or adopted.

Only natural mothers may receive 15 weeks of benefits. An adoptive parent receives benefits for 10 weeks (this may be increased to 15 weeks if the child has a physical, psychological, or emotional condition that requires extended care).

Cash benefit. Parents receive up to 55% of their average insured earnings up to a maximum of C$413 (approximately $275 a week) per week. Some low-income families (families whose earnings are lower than C$25,921) receive a higher benefit.

Cash Benefit Calculation. Average insured earnings are calculated by looking at the worker's total earnings in the 26 continuous weeks ending on the last day of work. The unemployment rate in the worker's area is determined and a particular divisor is applied to that rate (e.g., for 0% to 6% unemployment the devisor is 22). Total earnings are divided by the greater of the divisor or the number of weeks worked within the last 26 weeks.

Cash Benefit Commencement. There is a two-week waiting period after an individual applies for benefits. Payments typically begin by the end of the fourth week following an application submission. If the child is in the hospital, the parents may delay benefit commencement until the child comes home, up to one year.

Funding. Employers and employees fund benefits. Employees pay premiums on their earnings up to the annual maximum salary of C$39,000 (approximately $26,000). Deductions are made at $2.55 for every $100 of salary until the C$39,000 level has been reached. After that, workers pay no premiums.

DENMARK

History. Denmark has mandated that pregnant women refrain from working since 1892. It has protected women's' jobs when they take maternity leave since 1980 and has provided paid leave since 1989.

Eligibility. Either parent may take leave. They are eligible for parental leave cash benefits if they have worked at least 120 hours in the 13 weeks prior to seeking benefits.

Leave Duration. Mothers may take 28 weeks of paid leave. Fathers may take up to 12 weeks of paid leave.

Income Replacement. Danish parents receive up to 2,758 (approximately $424) kroner a week for up to 30 weeks, including (1) four weeks before and 14 weeks after birth for the mother, and concurrently, two weeks paid leave for the father; (2) an extension of another 10 weeks after birth for either parent; and (3) two more weeks for fathers only. Additional benefits for up to three months are available if the child or mother is hospitalized for a pregnancy-related illness or disability.

Funding. Employers and national and local governments share the cost of paid leave.

ENGLAND

History. England has provided paid maternity leave since 1960 and job-protection since 1980. Maternity pay consists of a maternity allowance, which the government funds almost entirely and statutory maternity pay, which a woman's employer fully funds.

Eligibility. Women alone may take parental leave. To receive a maternity allowance from the government, they must have made social insurance contributions for at least 26 weeks in the 66-week period prior to their due date. To receive statutory maternity pay from their employer a woman must have been employed continuously for at least 26 weeks by the same employer, including the 15 weeks before her due date and have average weekly earnings of at least 66 (approximately $132).

Leave duration. Women may take up to 40 weeks of unpaid family leave. They may receive up to 18 weeks of maternity pay.

Cash benefit. Women may receive up to six weeks of paid leave at 90% of average earnings, then up to 12 weeks at ,59.55 (approximately $120) a week.

Funding. The government pays over 92% of the statutory maternity pay and 100% in the case of some small employers. Employers fund 8% of the statutory maternity payment and the full cost of maternity allowances.

FINLAND

History. Finland has prohibited women from working after they give birth since 1963. In 1969, it instituted job-protected leave for women and paid parental leave in 1979.

Eligibility. Either parent may take leave. Parents must reside in Finland. Immigrants must complete a 180-day waiting period. In addition, parents must have worked for at least three months prior to the child's birth, unless they are involuntarily unemployed.

Leave Duration. Women may begin receiving parental leave payments 50 to 30 days before the child's due date (except if the mother is exposed to certain health risks, in which case a special maternity allowance is payable throughout the pregnancy). They continue receiving benefits for 105 workdays. Thereafter, either parent may receive benefits for 158 weekdays. They may receive benefits for 60 extra days if multiple births are involved and 100-234 days if they adopt a child.

In addition, Finland offers parents a 60-day, special care allowance if they are caring for a sick child in a hospital or at home. The benefit is extended for an additional 30 days if the child remains seriously ill.

Cash benefit. Parents receive a minimum weekly benefit of 420 marks (approximately $83). They receive 70% of their weekly earnings for the amount of their annual earnings that are less than 137,970 marks (approximately $27,052). They receive 40% of weekly earnings for annual income is between 137,970 and 212,270 marks (between $27,052 and 41,672), plus 25% of earnings for income over 212,270 marks.

Funding. The government pays the majority of benefits, but employees and employers also contribute through payroll taxes.

FRANCE

History. France adopted its first maternity leave law in 1928 when it mandated pregnant women to take a leave of absence. It has provided paid leave since 1978.

Eligibility. Either parent may take leave. Parents must have 10 months of social insurance credits prior to taking leave and at least 200 hours of work in the three months preceding the child's due date.

Leave Duration. In general France provides 16 weeks of paid leave and an additional three years of unpaid parental leave, which includes job protection and can be combined with part-time employment or education and training. Fathers may take up to 104 weeks of leave.

Income Replacement. Parents taking leave receive 100% of net earnings up to a daily maximum of 387 francs (approximately $70) for up to six weeks before and 10 weeks after the child's birth for the first and second child. Parents receive the same amount for eight weeks before and 18 weeks after the child's birth for the third child; for 12 weeks before and 22 weeks after the birth of twins; and for 24 weeks before and 22 weeks after the birth of triplets. Mothers may receive an additional two weeks of benefits if they remain in hospital care because of a pregnancy-related condition.

Funding. The government partially funds parental leave benefits. Employers and employees also contribute through payroll taxes.

GERMANY

History. In 1891, the German Imperial Industrial Code barred employers from employing women who were within four weeks of childbirth. Code amendments in 1903 and 1911 increased the leave period to six weeks and gave women paid leave in the two weeks before delivery. In 1924, Germany provided job protection to women taking maternity leave. In 1986, it simultaneously lengthened the duration of job-protected leave to three years and extended to unemployed parents the income support payments previously restricted to working parents.

Eligibility. Either parent may take leave. Parents must have 12 weeks of insurance credits or continuous employment from the 10th to the fourth month preceding the child's due date.

Leave duration. A parent's job is protected for up to three years. A father is eligible for paid leave for up to 69 weeks.

Cash benefit. Mothers may receive 100% of their wages up to an established maximum for up to six weeks before and eight weeks after their due dates. In addition, they receive 69 weeks of a flat rate. Mothers who are not eligible for parental leave receive a 150-mark lump sum. All parents receive income support equivalent to about 50% of the cost of raising a child.

Funding. The government fully subsidizes paternal leave benefits.

GREECE

History. Greece enacted a law in 1980 that (1) required pregnant women to take a leave of absence and (2) protected their job. It has provided paid leave since 1989.

Eligibility. Either parent may take leave. A parent must have worked for at least 200 days during the two-year period prior to the child's due date and have contributed to the social security fund during this period.

Leave duration. Parents may take up to 16 weeks of protected leave.

Cash benefit. Parents receive 50% of their earnings, plus 10% of their earnings for each dependent. The minimum daily benefit is 3,560 drachmas (approximately $13). In addition, since July 1998, parents receive a lump-sum maternity benefit of 194,760 drachmas (approximately $697) for each child.

Funding. The government partially funds parental benefits. Employers and employees fund the remainder through payroll taxes.

IRELAND

History. Ireland has provided job protection for women who take maternity leave since at least 1980. It has provided paid leave since at least 1989.

Eligibility. Only women may take leave. They must have worked for a covered employer for at least 10 weeks before the child's due date. In addition, they must have made 39 weeks of social insurance contributions in the 12-month period prior to maternity leave.

Also, pregnant workers, workers who have recently given birth and are breast feeding, or those unable to continue working due to a pregnancy-related risk are eligible for a “health and safety” cash benefit if they satisfy social insurance contribution requirements. Night shift workers are entitled to this benefit for the duration of pregnancy and for a period following childbirth if no alternative daytime work is available.

Leave duration. Women may take up to 18 weeks of parental leave with full job protection. They receive cash benefits for 14 of the 18 weeks.

Cash benefit. Employed women receive 70% of their weekly earnings up to a weekly maximum benefit of I,162.80 (approximately $244) for 14 weeks. The minimum weekly benefit is I,82.30 (approximately $123).

Also, qualified women receive a “health and safety” weekly cash benefit of up to I,70.50 (approximately $106), depending on their level of income. The employer pays the first 21 days of this benefit; the government pays the remainder. The benefit lasts for the entire maternity leave, or 14 weeks following childbirth if the mother has a nighttime job, and 26 weeks after birth if she is breast-feeding. The family receives a weekly dependent adult allowance of I,41.20 (approximately $62) and a dependent child allowance of I,12.20 (approxmiately. $18)

Funding. The government partially funds maternity benefits. Employers and employees fund the remainder through pension payroll taxes.

ITALY

History. Italy has mandated pre- and post-natal maternity leave since 1912. It has provided paid parental leave since 1950.

Eligibility. Leave is available to both fathers and mothers if the mother is employed at the beginning of pregnancy. Pregnant women must take maternity leave.

Leave duration. Mothers may take up to 46 weeks protected leave. Fathers may take up to 26 weeks of leave.

Cash benefits. Parents receive 80% of earnings for five months. One parent may receive an additional 6 months of leave and receive 30% of earnings.

Funding. The government fully funds maternity benefits.

LIECHTENSTEIN

Eligibility. A parent may receive parental leave benefits if he has been a member of a health insurance fund for at least 270 days without an interruption lasting longer than three months.

Cash benefit. A parent receives 80% of his income up to a daily maximum of 267 francs. Benefits last for 20 weeks, 10 of which may be before the child's due date.

Funding. The government partially funds benefits. Employer and employee payroll taxes fund the remainder.

LUXEMBOURG

Eligibility. A parent must have contributed to the social insurance system for at least six months prior to the child's due date.

Leave duration. A parent may take 16 weeks of leave. Parents who adopt may take eight weeks of leave.

Cash benefit. A parent receives 100% of earnings up to a monthly maximum of 234,392 francs (approximately $6,697) for up to eight weeks before and after a child's due date. A mother receives 12 weeks of post-natal benefits if she experiences complications or multiple births or is nursing.

Women who experience no loss of income during maternity leave may receive a 105,344-franc lump sum (approxmiately $3,010) over a 16-week period.

Funding. The government fully funds parental leave payments.

NETHERLANDS

History. Holland has provided cash maternity benefits for employed women since 1966. It has provided these benefits to unemployed women since 1998. In 1975, it enacted maternity leave job protection.

Eligibility. Only women may take parental leave.

Leave duration. Employed and unemployed women may receive cash payments for 16 weeks. Employed women may have their cash benefits extended for one year if they become disabled by a pregnancy or delivery. A woman's job is protected for six months.

Cash benefit. Employed women receive 100% of their income up to a weekly maximum of 1,150 guilders (approximately $575) for 16 weeks. Unemployed women may receive 100% of their former income up to a maximum of the minimum wage (currently 2,350 guilders per month ($1,175)).

In addition, certain employers must offer flexible employment conditions (e.g., government employees can reduce their working hours by half for up to six months and receive 75% of their salary for the leave hours).

Dutch families also receive a universal family allowance, which covers 33% of the cost of raising a child and is not income sensitive.

Funding. The government partially funds maternity benefits. Employer and employee payroll taxes fund the remainder.

NORWAY

History. Norway has mandated post-birth maternity leave since 1909. It has provided paid leave since at least 1960.

Eligibility. Either parent may take leave. They must have been employed or self-employed for six of the past 10 months. Insured mothers who are not entitled to cash benefits receive a “maternity grant.”

Leave duration. A parent may take an unpaid leave of absence for up to one year with full job protection. Single parents may take up to three years of leave with full job protection.

Cash benefit. One of the parents may receive 100% of covered earnings for 42 weeks or, alternatively, 80% for 52 weeks up to an established maximum. Four weeks of the total maternity cash benefit period is reserved for the father. A reduced work week may count as a partial maternity benefit.

Maternity grants (available to women who are ineligible for maternity cash benefits) are 32,138 kroner (approximately $4,285) per child. Parents who adopt also receive this grant.

Norway also provides a universal family allowance benefit for single parents including childcare, a transitional cash benefit on top of family allowance, and advance maintenance payments.

Funding. The government partially funds parental benefits. Employer and employee payroll taxes fund the remainder.

PORTUGAL

History. Portugal instituted job-protected leave in 1969. It has provided cash benefits for parents taking leave since 1979.

Eligibility. Either parent may take leave. Employed and self-employed individuals who have contributed to the social insurance system for at least six months are eligible. Voluntary insurance is available to certain categories of individuals not covered by any other social insurance contributory program.

Cash Benefit. A parent receives 100% of her average earnings during the last six months proceeding the two months prior to delivery. He may receive benefits for 170 days (up to 110 days prior to birth and 60 days after). The minimum maternity benefit is 50% of the minimum wage.

Funding. The government partially funds benefits. Employer and employee payroll taxes fund the remainder.

SPAIN

History. Spain has mandated post-natal maternity leave since 1929. In 1970 it instituted job-protected leave and has provided paid leave since least 1979.

Eligibility. Only women may take parental leave. A woman must work in industry, commerce, or services to qualify. She must have contributed to the social insurance system for at least 180 days during the five years preceding childbirth or the official adoption date.

Protected leave duration. Women may take up to three years off and return to their job.

Cash Benefit. Women receive 75% of their income for 16 weeks. Benefits are extended for two weeks in the case of multiple births. Women who adopt a child older than nine months receive six weeks of benefits.

Funding. The government partially funds benefits. Employer and employee payroll taxes fund the remainder.

SWEDEN

History. Sweden adopted its first maternity leave law in 1891 when it

mandated compulsory post-natal leave and provided paid parental leave.

Eligibility. Either parent may take leave. A parent must have been insured by the social insurance system for at least 240 days prior to the child's due date.

Cash Benefits. Parents receive 80% of their earnings for one year up to a daily maximum of 598 kronor (approximately $68). The minimum daily benefit is 60 kroner (approximately $7). Parents receive 60 kroner a day until the child reaches age eight. Benefits are subject to taxation.

In addition to the leave cash benefit, women receive a maternity cash benefit. They receive 80% of their income loss for 50 days, which must begin between 60 and 10 days prior to childbirth.

Pregnant women are eligible for a cash benefit if they have a physically demanding job and their employer is unable to offer them a less demanding position.

Finally, a parent may receive 80% income replacement for up to 60 days annually to stay at home and care for a child up to age 12 (age 16 if the child is chronically ill or disabled). Parents receive payments for an additional 60 days to care for an ill child.

Funding. 85% of paid leave is funded through employer payroll taxes and the remaining 15% by the government.

SWITZERLAND

History. Switzerland has mandated post-natal leave and provided job protection and paid parental leave since 1969.

Eligibility. Only women may take leave. They must have contributed at least nine months to the social insurance system without an interruption greater than three months and have worked for at least two years with same employer.

Leave Duration. A woman's job is protected for 14 weeks after the child's birth.

Cash Benefits. A woman receives a daily allowance set by an agreement between her and her insurer.

Funding. Employees entirely fund benefits through insurance premiums.

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