Maternity vs. Paternity Leaves In Europe

Parents are carrying and kissing a baby girl

Maternity vs. Paternity Leaves In Europe

Around the world childcare is believed to be a female issue; pertaining to the old gender roles that assign women with household tasks and family care and men to be the bread-earner of the house.

However, in an attempt to encourage gender equality Europe has introduced paternal leave – a short period of leave given to the father after the birth of the child.

Europe has been identified as the continent with the most countries that have generous maternity and paternity leaves all over the world.

Different countries in Europe offer different types of leaves that accommodate the mother, father, and the child. However, there is a huge difference between maternity and paternity leaves across the continent. 

Maternity Leaves

Europe has a policy of mandatory maternity leave or pregnancy leave – this is a set amount of time available to the mother to stay home and take care of the child. The allotted time for the leave varies from country to country and can go from 10 weeks to 50 weeks.

Moreover, many states in Europe provide an allowance in that period which is typically 100% of the salary. According to research, the countries that are at the top of the list are Sweden and Estonia that offer maternity leaves from 45 to 85 weeks.

During this time the mothers get paid completely. At the bottom of this list is the UK and Switzerland that have the lowest-paid maternity leave – 12 to 18 weeks. Mothers in these countries are entitled to a maximum of only 8 weeks of fully paid maternity leave.

Paternity Leaves

Along with mandatory maternity leaves many countries, except for Switzerland, Ireland, and the Czech Republic, offer the fathers a paternity leave as well.

This is usually right after the child is born. Similar to maternity leaves, paternity leaves also vary from country to country but are considerably lower than maternity leaves.

Even in countries like Sweden and Norway where the mother gets a leave of up to 85 weeks, the father gets a maximum of 10 weeks fully paid paternity leave.

Similarly, in countries with the poorest rates of maternity leaves, fathers get little to no paternity leaves. For example, the UK allows fathers a paid paternity leave of 0.4 weeks! Whereas, countries such as Switzerland do not grant paternity leaves at all.

However, even with the increasing trend of paternal leaves, research suggests that a very few number of men opt for paternal leave. This could be the result of many reasons including socio-cultural factors or individual factors that come into play. 


Both maternal and paternal leaves have a huge impact on the economy of a country – it has numerous benefits not only for the parents and their child but also for the office they work in.

Companies can save a lot of time and money they would spend on hiring and training recruits. The parent could save themselves from unemployment and save up on childcare costs.

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