Written by Ulla Jurviste, Martina Prpic and Giulio Sabbati
Updated in December 2016
Maternity leave policies in EU Member States are governed by the 1992 Pregnant Workers Directive, which 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. In 2008 the Commission tried to replace this directive with a more suitable framework. The proposal was to extend the duration of maternity leave to 18 weeks in accordance with the guidelines of the International Labour Organization. At least 6 weeks would be compulsory after confinement, with an allowance amounting to full salary. This was accepted in 2010 by the Parliament, which extended the proposal to 20 weeks of maternity leave and 2 weeks of paternity leave under the same conditions. However, having been deadlocked in the Council since then, the proposal was withdrawn in July 2015. The Commission then announced a new, more holistic package as a replacement. The proposed package tackles the challenge of work-life balance of working parents and carers, which would be particularly beneficial for gender equality in the labour market.
Explanation of the graphs
Due to the complexity of national legislation and differences between the Member States, and to facilitate presentation of the data in graphic form, simplifications have had to be 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 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.
Download this infographic on ‘Maternity and paternity leave in the EU‘ in PDF.