Written by Ulla Jurviste and Marie Lecerf.
Updated in March 2022.
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 two weeks’ paternity leave was introduced in a new directive on work-life balance for parents and carers, which entered into force on 1 August 2019. Member States have until 2 August 2022 to adopt the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with the directive. The right to paternity leave may not 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, to help them balance their work and family lives and to encourage a better sharing of caring responsibilities between women and men. As such it adopts 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 and 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 leave granted.
Given that national legislation may express leave periods in months, weeks, calendar days or working days, for 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.
Read this infographic on ‘Maternity and paternity leave in the EU‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.