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  • She Says

Maternity Leave: global views

  • JWB Post
  •  January 31, 2014


Some nations have done a better job than others of navigating the needs of two-partner working families as mothers flood the job market. In some countries, like Sweden and the United Kingdom, generous amounts of paid leave are the norm while in countries like the United States, only unpaid leave is federally mandated.

After maternity or paternity leave, national government programs in some countries provide free or subsidized childcare. In most nations, however, parents must cobble together arrangements for care. And across the globe, women regularly earn less than their male counterparts.

A look at eight countries, their maternity leave rules, childcare policies and salary differentials.



When you first have a baby: Parents are allowed 480 days of leave, with two months of that time reserved for the father. The leave is paid at 80% of salary for the first 390 days and a flat rate set by the government for the remaining 90 days.

When your child is three or four: Children are guaranteed a spot at a public pre-school, with no parent paying more than 3% of their salary for the program.

Salary differential: Swedish women earn 15% less than their male counterparts.

(Sources: Catalyst, United Nations, National Public Radio)

South Africa

When you first have a baby: Women are allowed four months leave, paid up to 60% of their salary depending on income level.

When your child is three or four: Childcare subsidies are offered to low-income parents in some areas through South Africa’s Department of Social Development. Other government subsidies are given to community organizations operating childcare facilities for poor children. Many parents pay for private child care or arrange for family care.

Salary differential: As of 2009, the latest data available, women earned an average of R13692 ($1,379) per month, compared with an average of R19912 ($2,005) for men.

(Sources: Catalyst, United Nations, National Public Radio,


When you first have a baby: Women receive 18 weeks of paid leave, at the federal minimum wage, currently AUD606 ($578). New mothers can take up to 52 weeks of unpaid leave.

When your child is three or four: Childcare benefits, issued from the Australian Department of Human Services, are dependent on income. Many parents pay for private childcare.

Salary differential: Australian women earn 16% less than Australian men.

(Sources: Catalyst, United Nations, National Public Radio)


When you first have a baby: Women receive 120 days paid maternity leave, at 100% of their salary.

When your child is three or four: Early childhood services are the responsibility of each Brazilian municipality. Public schools are free, but are often overcrowded. Parents who can afford to do so often pay for private care and pre-school.

Salary differential: Women earned an estimated 60% of what men earned, as of 2011.

(Sources: Catalyst, United Nations, National Public Radio, InterNations)

United Kingdom

When you first have a baby: Mothers are entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave in total. Six weeks are paid at 90% of salary; the next 33 weeks are paid at a flat rate set by the government; the last 12 weeks are unpaid.

When your child is three or four: Pre-primary school is provided by local governments and private organization for free, for a limited number of hours per week. Parents pay fees for other childcare, with some provisions for low-income families and tax credits available from the government and vouchers offered by some employers to help cover some costs.Still, parents pay about 70% to 80% of childcare costs, according to a 2012 survey by Daycare Trust in the UK.

Salary differential: Women earn 20% less than their male counterparts.

(Sources: Catalyst, United Nations, National Public Radio, Daycare Trust)

United States

When you first have a baby: Federal policy allows 12 weeks unpaid leave to women if they work in companies of a certain size for a long enough time period. Some states have more generous leave laws.

When your child is three or four: Low-income families may qualify for childcare subsidies or free Head Start pre-school programs. Some states offer free pre-kindergarten programs. Most parents pay out of pocket for childcare options that include day care centres, private nannies, shared babysitting or pre-school programs.

Salary differential: Median earnings for women are about 78% of the median male earnings.

(Sources: Catalyst, United Nations, National Public Radio)


When you first have a baby: Mothers are allowed 14 weeks of maternity leave, paid at 60% of salary.

When your child is three or four: The Japanese government subsidizes thousands of day care centres nationwide for families at all income levels, although the number of spaces available is limited.

Salary differential: Japanese men earn 28% more than Japanese women.

(Sources: Catalyst, United Nations, National Public Radio)


There are no uniform rules for female employees in government departments and organizations and they are treated by varying yardsticks when it comes to essential benefits like maternity and child care leave (CCL).

Dismayed after finding that maternity leave can vary from 90 to 135 days, a parliamentary panel has suggested that all government departments and organizations should ensure 180 days of leave for their women employees.

The standing committee on law, personnel and public grievances on the ‘status of women in government employment and in public sector undertakings’ was unhappy that while a majority of the organizations do grant CCL, but they do so without pay.

For example, Mahanandi Coalfields Ltd gives CCL to female employees working as executives but not for non-executive category. In Cochin Shipyard Ltd, CCL is not granted since there is no specific direction from the department of public enterprises.

Introduction of “flexible timings” for female employees, especially young mothers, so that organizations can retain talent has been mooted by the committee headed by Congress MP Shantaram Naik as the panel found household responsibilities as a major reason for attrition among women employees. The government has been asked to explore the policy on “staggered working hours” or “work at home” for female employees. The panel was informed that the recommendation of Sixth Pay Commission regarding staggered working hours was not accepted by the government.

And here what the Indian Law says:

Married women, who are full time employees and have at least six months of continuous service with the company, shall be entitled to Maternity leave facilities under the guidance provided by the Law:

  • Maternity leave can be for duration of a maximum of 12 weeks, starting from up to 6 weeks prior to the expected date of delivery and 6 weeks post delivery (including the day of delivery).
  • In case of miscarriage, a maximum of four weeks leave can be taken following the day of miscarriage.
  • In case of leave taken due to illness, miscarriage or medical termination of pregnancy, a medical certificate from a registered medical practitioner has to be obtained and submitted to the HR department. Medical termination of the pregnancy should be one that is advised by the doctor/medical practitioner. Benefits will not apply if it is a voluntary termination. In case of voluntary termination, leave cannot be claimed under the maternity leave policy. Salary paid during maternity leave is basic salary only.
  • Paternity leave shall be five working days and must be availed within 30 days of the child’s birth and in continuation. Salary paid during paternity leave is basic salary only.



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