Comparing Maternity Leave Policies: A Look Across European Countries

Gain valuable insights into the diverse maternity leave policies across European countries, enabling you to understand the varying entitlements, benefits, and employer responsibilities, crucial for managing a multinational workforce effectively.
maternity leave in europe
Written by
Ontop Team

When it comes to maternity leave, there is no one-size-fits-all policy. Different countries have varying approaches to supporting working mothers during and after childbirth. In this blog post, we will take a closer look at maternity leave policies across Europe and explore the differences in entitlements, duration, and employer obligations.

Maternity Leave Length in Europe

One of the key aspects to consider when comparing maternity leave policies is the length of time mothers are entitled to take off work. Across Europe, the duration of maternity leave can vary significantly. For example, in Sweden, mothers are entitled to 480 days of paid leave, while in Switzerland, the entitlement is 98 days. Other countries, such as Germany and France, provide a medium-length leave of 14 weeks and 16 weeks, respectively.

Financial Support

In addition to the duration, it's important to understand the level of financial support provided during maternity leave. Some countries, like Sweden and Norway, offer generous benefits that cover a significant portion of the mother's pre-maternity salary. In contrast, other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Ireland, have a maximum payment limit, resulting in a lower percentage of the mother's pre-maternity income.

Employer Obligations

Employer obligations also play a crucial role in maternity leave policies. In many European countries, employers are required to hold the mother's position open and provide the same or equivalent job upon her return. This ensures job security and protects against discrimination. However, the duration of this obligation can vary, ranging from a few weeks to several months.

Additional Measures

Furthermore, some countries have additional measures in place to support working mothers. For instance, in the Netherlands, employers are required to provide breastfeeding facilities and time for expressing milk during working hours. In Germany, pregnant employees are entitled to additional breaks for prenatal check-ups. These additional provisions demonstrate the commitment of these countries to supporting the well-being of working mothers.

Key Considerations

While maternity leave policies in Europe generally aim to protect the rights of working mothers, there are still disparities among countries. The European Union has implemented directives to ensure a minimum level of protection for pregnant workers and those on maternity leave. However, individual member states have the flexibility to go beyond these minimum standards and provide more extensive benefits.

Understanding the differences in maternity leave policies across Europe is crucial for both employers and employees. For employers with operations in multiple countries, it is important to comply with the specific regulations of each country and provide the necessary support to pregnant employees. For employees, being aware of the entitlements in different countries can help make informed decisions when considering job opportunities abroad or planning a family.


In conclusion, maternity leave policies vary across European countries in terms of entitlements, duration, and employer obligations. It is essential to familiarize oneself with the specific regulations of each country to navigate maternity leave effectively. By comparing and understanding the differences, both employers and employees can ensure compliance and make informed decisions regarding maternity leave in Europe.

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