There’s a country where moms are allowed to take one whole year of maternity leave to spend with their babies – and they don’t even have to sacrifice their salaries to do it.
In fact, two countries do this: Denmark and Serbia both give new moms a year of maternity leave at full pay.
Serbian moms get a year off for each of their first two babies and then two years off for the third and every subsequent child. Moms also get two years off if they have multiple births.
Scandinavian countries lead the way in parental leave with Denmark offering moms a month of pregnancy leave, plus 14 weeks’ maternity leave and then 32 weeks’ parental leave that can be split between both parents.
In Sweden, the allowance for maternity leave is the longest of all countries (about 69 weeks), but this is transferrable, so if a new mom is craving a little intellectual stimulation, she can decide to go back to work after eight weeks, and dad can look after the little one for the remaining time. Plus the government pays 80% of your salary for 390 days and a lump sum for the remaining days.
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0% maternity leave pay
In contrast, there are nine countries in the world without a national law mandating at least some paid maternity leave. These include the US, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Micronesia, according to the Full Participation Report by McGill University in Canada.
In South Africa, moms are entitled to four months’ maternity leave, including a month’s leave before the baby’s birth if needed, but companies are not under a legal obligation to remunerate employees during this time.
South African moms who contribute to the Department of Labour’s Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) are eligible for 38% to 58% of their salary, capped at a maximum gross salary of R14,872. According to UIF Matters this works out as follows:
The best companies for new parents
In a bid to retain top talent and fill the void left by zero or low governmental parental leave and pay, some forward-thinking companies have announced groundbreaking policies for maternity and paternity leave.
In the US, Netflix has introduced an unlimited leave policy for new moms and dads. This allows them to take off as much time as they need during the first year after a child’s birth or adoption – all fully paid.
When they’re ready to return to work, Netflix parents can return part-time, full-time or return and then take time off as needed. Back at work, parents are entitled to the company’s normal unlimited holiday leave.
Virgin Management in the UK allows parents, including adoptive parents and irrespective of gender, up to 100% of their basic salary for 52 weeks.
In South Africa, Pick n Pay gives moms 11 months of paid maternity leave and dads get eight days of paid paternity leave, but can also share maternity leave with mothers if both parents have worked at the company for more than eight months.
Sharing parental leave
In the UK, the Shared Parental Leave policy, introduced in 2015, gives parents the option of sharing 50 weeks of parental leave, following the first two weeks after the birth of a child and are even allowed to take some of the time off together.
Under Shared Parental Leave, whoever takes the leave will receive 90% of their average weekly earnings for the first six weeks, after which it will be 90% or £139.78 (approximately R2 715) – whichever is lower – for 33 weeks. The remaining 13 weeks of leave entitlement, if taken, is unpaid.
Forward-thinking maternity leave policies
Paid maternity leave in France is based on the number of kids you have. So, for example, you get 16 weeks’ fully paid leave for your first or second child, 26 weeks’ for a third, 34 weeks’ for twins and 46 weeks’ leave for triplets.
In Sweden, parental leave can be taken up until a child turns eight and parents can accumulate leave for multiple children. In addition, parents are legally allowed to reduce their normal working hours by up to 25% until the child turns eight.
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