A country’s parental leave policy is often a reflection of how the country views gender equality. By dividing responsibilities between both parents, a country encourages gender equality and breaks free from traditional gender roles. Here are four countries with the best parental leave policies in the world:
While the Finnish language most resembles Hungarian and Estonian, Finland is absolutely Scandinavian when it comes to its parental leave culture. Finland offers a very long parental leave to its employees, where starting in 2021, both parents are entitled to parental leave of 164 days each. Parents will be able to transfer 69 days from their own quota to the other parent. The parental allowance will be paid until the child is 13 weeks old. Single parents will have the right to use the parental allowance of both parents.
Out of these, 26 weeks are paid out of 70% of the employee’s salary. For the remaining weeks, employees are given a flat rate. Despite these generous leave allowances, fathers in Finland do not use their allotment, reflecting a still stubborn gender imbalance in the country.
Germany is the only country outside of Scandinavia to have some of the most generous parental leave laws in the world. It has successfully managed to bridge the gender gap, even though Germany is a country that traditionally has expected mothers to stay at home. In the mid-2000s, this mindset changed as laws were passed to encourage women to get back into employment. Employees are entitled to parental leave for their natural or adopted child and can request up to 3 years of parental leave to take care of a newborn until the child turns 3 years old. This time can be claimed by both parents at the same time, or separately.
While on parental leave, employees may work up to 30 hours per week. Additionally, parents of children born after July 1, 2015, can access the Parental Allowance Plus, which gives them the right to receive a parental allowance from the government for up to 24 months or up to 28 months if both parents decide to take parental leave at the same time.
During 12 months of parental leave (14 months if both parents take the leave), the state pays 67% of the employee’s average monthly income, up to EUR 1,800 (euros), but not less than EUR 300. If employees have 2 children under the age of 3 years or 3 or more children younger than 6 years of age, the allowance is increased by 10% (minimum of EUR 75).
Even though fewer than 340,000 people live in Iceland, it has one of the most generous parental leave laws. Parents are allowed 39 weeks of paid leave that is given out of 80% of the worker’s salary. Each parent gets 13 weeks off from work. The remaining 13 weeks can be split between both parents or as they deem fit. Even though Iceland does not have a bonus system like Germany, fathers generally use up 45% of the parental leave benefits. This shows that Iceland is a progressive country where gender inequality is slowly being challenged and overcome.
The Norwegian welfare system has always been generous. In Norway, a pregnant employee is entitled to a leave of absence for up to 12 weeks during her pregnancy. After childbirth, the mother takes a leave of absence for the first 6 weeks of the post-birth period unless she produces a medical certificate stating that it is preferable that she resume work.
The parental benefit period lasts 49 weeks (15 weeks are reserved for each parent) with 100% wage coverage or 59 weeks (19 weeks are reserved for each parent) with 80% wage coverage. The parental benefit is calculated in the same way as sickness benefits. The maximum benefit is equivalent to 6 times the National Insurance Basic Amount annually, regardless of whether the parents’ income is higher.
Leave rights related to having a child mean that parents, together, are entitled to take leave until the child attains 3 years of age. The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Service (NAV) pays the first year. Even though there is no bonus system, Norwegian fathers are known to use up 40% of parental leave so that they can spend time with their children before going back to work.
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