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Global: Update on new or proposed parental leave entitlements worldwide

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August 27, 2020

Proposals and changes in parental leave policies over the past year range from conventional enhancements to targeted increases in benefits.

Employer Action Code: Act

A number of countries have enacted or proposed increases and enhancements to different types of leave entitlements for working parents over the past year, ranging from conventional enhancements, such as longer and more flexible parental leave in Australia, to very targeted benefits, such as paid leave for parents who have lost a child in the U.K. The following list briefly summarizes the main changes and proposals over the past 12 months (listed by country or sub-national jurisdiction). Note: Temporary leave-related measures driven by the COVID-19 pandemic are not included.

Key details

Country Leave
Australia Employees with children born, or adopted, on or after July 1, 2020, are entitled to a more flexible parental leave. Instead of having to take 18 weeks of parental leave in a single block, employees may now take the last six weeks (“flexible parental leave”) in shorter blocks, at any time within a 24-month period following the birth or adoption.
Bermuda Effective January 1, 2020, employer-paid maternity leave was increased from eight to 13 weeks. From the same date and for the first time, male employees are entitled to paid paternity leave, of five days. In both cases, employees must have at least 12 months of service to be eligible for paid leave.
Estonia The paternity leave entitlement was increased from 10 to 30 days for employees who become fathers on or after July 1, 2020. This additional allocation of days within the parental leave benefit scheme is nontransferable and can be used in full or in part starting up to 30 days before the expected due date and until the child is three years old.
Ethiopia The new Labor Code, effective September 5, 2019, introduced notable changes to family leave. Employer-paid maternity leave was increased to 120 calendar days (30 days prior to the birth and 90 days following). Previously, female staff were entitled to 90 days (30 days prior and 60 days afterward). New fathers are now entitled to three calendar days of employer-paid paternity leave (no entitlement previously).
European Union EU Directive 2019/1158, to be transposed by member states into local legislation effective by August 2, 2022, mandates the following: At least 10 days of paid paternity leave in connection with the birth of a child, with compensation at least equal to that payable if the employee were on leave due to sickness. Also, a minimum of four months’ parental leave entitlement for each worker, of which at least two months are nontransferable between parents. At least the two nontransferable months must be adequately compensated at a level to be decided by each member state to facilitate the take-up of parental leave by both parents (compensation for the final two weeks of this two-month period is only required from August 2024). Parents may request to take the leave in a flexible way (e.g., via part-time work or in segments).
Finland From January 1, 2020, maternity, paternity and parental allowances are based on earnings (inclusive of wages/salary and certain benefits) during the first 12 of the 13 full calendar months prior to the employee becoming entitled to the allowance. Previously, calculations were based on earnings from the prior tax year, i.e., from two years prior. Also, draft legislation has been submitted to consolidate the separate maternity, paternity and parental leave entitlements as a single paid parental leave for each parent, intended to promote wellbeing and gender equality. The proposal is under development and is expected to come into force in 2021.
Hong Kong Approved amendments to the Employment Ordinance (EO) will increase employer-paid maternity leave from 10 to 14 weeks, while keeping the benefit rate at 80% of the employee’s average daily wages (over the prior 12 months). Maternity pay during the four additional weeks of leave will be capped at HKD 80,000, and employers may apply for reimbursement from the government. In addition, the minimum term of pregnancy required to qualify for maternity leave in the event of miscarriage will change from 28 to 24 weeks. The period within which eligible employees are entitled to take statutory paternity leave will also be extended, from 10 to 14 weeks. Although the amendments to the EO have already been published, their effective date is unknown; however, they are expected to come into force by the end of 2020.
Hungary Recent changes to the Labor Code have modified the eligibility for parents to request part-time employment. Previously, employees with a child up to three years of age were eligible, or up to age five for the youngest child of employees with three or more children. Effective January 1, 2020, parents of a child up to age four, or age six for parents with three or more children, are now eligible. Also, employees are now entitled to unpaid leave to care for an adopted child, for a maximum of three years, starting on the date on which the child is placed in their custody.
Ireland Under the Parents’ Leave and Benefit Act, a new entitlement for paid parental leave was introduced on November 1, 2019. This is an additional entitlement to the unpaid parental leave and is payable by social security at the same rate (245 euros per week for each parent) as applies to maternity and paternity leave. Qualifying employees with at least one year of service are entitled to two weeks of parental leave paid by social security during the 52-week period following the birth or adoption of a child but payable after maternity, adoption or paternity leave benefits end.
Italy The 2020 Budget Law extended compulsory paternity leave, paid by social security at 100% of pay, from five to seven days and maintained the optional day in exchange for a day of maternity leave; these provisions only apply to employees who become fathers in 2020 (the relevant provisions are determined under the Budget Law on an annual basis).
Latvia Effective January 1, 2020, mothers who have been unemployed for a maximum of 60 days prior to giving birth are still entitled to maternity and parental benefits. Also, effective September 1, 2020, mothers with contributions for three of the six months prior to giving birth or for at least six months in the last two years will be eligible for maternity and parental benefits.
Lithuania Of two alternative proposals released by the government for public vote to replace the existing parental leave system, the public has voted in favor of social security providing leave for 24 months and for each parent to have two months of nontransferable leave within that period. A further announcement is expected in fall 2020.
Macau The Labor Relations Law has been amended to extend the minimum paid maternity leave period from 56 to 70 days for children born on or after May 26, 2020. Through May 25, 2023, the minimum employer-paid period will remain 56 days, and the Social Security Fund will subsidize the additional days; from May 26, 2023, employers will be responsible for the full 70 days of paid leave. Additionally, effective May 26, 2020, employees with a year or more of service are entitled to five working days of employer-paid paternity leave.
Malaysia In October 2019, the government included a proposal to increase employer-paid maternity leave from 60 to 90 days as part of its 2020 budget. This provision would be implemented from 2021; however, the change has not yet been formally published in the official gazette.
Mexico In September 2019, the Senate approved amendments to the Federal Labor Law to increase maternity leave to 14 weeks: seven weeks prenatal and seven weeks postnatal. The changes would also enable the mother to reduce the prenatal period to two weeks, with medical and employer approval. If the child is born with a disability or requires ongoing hospital care following the birth, the additional postnatal leave would be extended to 14 weeks (from two weeks currently). The amendments have yet to be approved by the Chamber of Deputies due in part to the challenge of funding the additional cost to social security, but the measure appears to have broad support for passage.
Netherlands Since July 1, 2020, social security provides five weeks of paternity/partner leave, payable at 70% of earnings (with daily earnings capped at 222.78 euros), to be taken after the one week of employer-paid leave and within six months of birth.
Pakistan In January 2020, the senate approved the Maternity and Paternity Leave Bill which would require that all employers in the national capital territory (which includes the capital of Islamabad) provide 180 days of paid maternity leave for the first child; 120 days for a second; and 90 days for a third child. Male employees would be entitled to 30 days of employer-paid paternity leave for each child. The bill still needs to be approved by the National Assembly.
Portugal Effective January 1, 2020, mandatory (initial) paternity/partner leave increased from 15 to 20 days, five days of which must be taken immediately from the date of birth and the remainder taken within six weeks. Optional paternity/partner leave decreased from 10 to five days. The entitlement to initial paternity/partner leave also became available to adoptive fathers for the first time. Pay replacement benefits are provided by social security. In addition, paid parental leave was extended in certain circumstances, such as by up to 30 days for infant hospitalization or to travel to a hospital outside the mother’s normal area of residence to give birth.
Puerto Rico Effective August 8, 2020, female employees adopting a child age six or older are entitled to five weeks of employer-paid adoption leave, commencing from the date the child is placed. Prior to this provision, adoption leave was only available for adoption of children under age six who were not yet enrolled in school.
South Korea Amendments to the Equal Employment Opportunity Act introduced substantial changes to family leave. Effective October 1, 2019, employer-paid paternity leave was increased to 10 days, which may be taken within 90 days of birth. Government subsidies will be made available for small and midsize companies. Further, employees are now entitled to two years (instead of one) of combined parental leave and reduced work time (limited to one year of parental leave). Effective January 1, 2020, all employees are entitled to take up to 10 days of unpaid family care leave (from a total entitlement of 90 days), in single-day increments, and eligibility has been expanded to include care for grandparents/grandchildren and for urgent child-rearing matters. Finally, employees are able to reduce working time by two to five hours (15 to 30 hours on a weekly basis), for up to three years, for family care (one year for educational purposes). This currently applies to employers with 300 or more workers; it will be phased in for smaller companies through 2022.
Switzerland In September 2019, parliament passed a law introducing paid paternity leave of 10 days during the first six months after birth, payable by social security at the same rate as maternity leave (80% of covered daily base salary, subject to a maximum 14 daily allowances of 196 Swiss francs); consequently, employer and employee social security contribution rates would increase by 0.03% of covered pay. Implementation of the law is expected to take place in 2021, pending the results of a national referendum scheduled for September 27, 2020.
United Kingdom Effective April 6, 2020, the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 entitles parents to statutory paid bereavement leave of two weeks (per child) in the event of losing a child under age 18 (or a stillborn child after 24 weeks of pregnancy). Claimants have the option to take leave as nonconsecutive periods (subject to a minimum of one week) or a single block within 56 days of the child’s death.

Employer implications

Employers should review their leave policies to ensure compliance in countries in which they operate. They also might want to examine their global or regional family leave policies and practices in order to maintain or promote equitable treatment among all employees.

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