Written by Verena Kern and Marie Lecerf.
Updated in February 2023.
Maternity rights are set out in the 1992 Pregnant Workers Directive. This EU legislation sets the minimum period for maternity
leave at 14 weeks, with 2 weeks’ compulsory leave before and/or after confinement and an adequate allowance subject to
national legislation. A right to 2 weeks’ paternity leave was introduced in a new Work-life Balance Directive for parents and
carers, which entered into force on 1 August 2019. Member States had until 2 August 2022 to adopt the laws, regulations and
administrative provisions necessary to comply with the directive. The right to paternity leave cannot be made subject to a period
of work qualification or to a length of service qualification.
The European Commission proposed the new Work-life Balance Directive following the withdrawal of an earlier proposal for a
maternity leave directive, which would have extended the period of maternity leave. The new directive does not do so, but it
is expected to be particularly beneficial for gender equality in the labour market. As part of the European Pillar of Social Rights
(Article 9), it aims to address women’s under-representation in the labour market, help them balance their work and family lives
more easily and encourage a better distribution of caring responsibilities between women and men. As such it takes a broader
approach to modernising the existing EU legal framework in the area of family-related leave and flexible working arrangements,
to take account of developments in society over the past decade.
Explanation of the graphs
Given the complexity of national legislation, differences between the Member States, and the need to facilitate presentation
of the data in graphic form, simplifications have been made in respect of a number of countries. The terms of legislation as it
applies in the public sector are illustrated in cases where there is a difference with the private sector. Countries are ordered by
the length of maternity/paternity leave granted. Given that national legislation may express leave periods in months, weeks,
calendar days or working days, for the purposes of comparison, they are presented here in rounded weeks.
Some countries also have ceilings on the amount of money paid during maternity/paternity leave, but these are not addressed
in this publication. When national legislation does not state exactly when the maternity leave is supposed to start, the earliest
possible time was taken as the starting point.
When national legislation does not state exactly when the maternity leave is supposed to start, the earliest possible time was taken as the starting point.
Read this infographic on ‘Maternity and paternity leave in the EU‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.