Did you know that only four countries in the world don’t have a national law mandating at least some paid maternity leave? Yup. The culprits are Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and… the United States of America.
In America, the Family Medical Leave Act guarantees most women 12 weeks of unpaid leave. But if you work for a very small company or are self-employed, you’re not legally entitled to FLMA benefits.
Most countries offer moms at least 10 weeks of paid maternity leave. Some offer special benefits to moms of multiples or moms who have suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth. And more and more countries are giving benefits to fathers, too.
The best country to give birth in? Without a doubt, it’s Sweden. You get nearly 480 paid days off per child, and you can use your maternity leave any time up until the child is 8 years old. And the country in which you’ll expected to be back to work the fastest? Tunisia – where you’ll only get 30 days at reduced pay, or the United Arab Emirates, where you get 45 days off at 100% pay.
Check out the slideshow to see who offers the best and the worst maternity benefits, as well as which countries make special accommodations for miscarriages and C-sections.
America 1 of 12In the United States, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 gives mothers and fathers a guaranteed 12 weeks of unpaid time off. However, this federal law only applies to public agencies and private companies with 50 or more employees working within 75 miles. To receive FMLA benefits, you must be employed for 12 months and worked 1,250 hours in the 12-month time period prior to your leave.
Some states offer additional maternity and paternity benefits. California guarantees 6 weeks of paid time off; New Jersey offers 6 weeks at 66% of regular pay; and Washington requires 5 weeks of paid time off at $250/week. In other states, pregnancy is legally viewed as a disability.
Sweden 2 of 12Sweden is well-known for offering the most generous parental leave. All working parents get 16 months paid leave per child, with the cost shared between the employer and the government. The 16 months can be divided by both parents; however, fathers must take a minimum of 2 months off. Parents are entitled to 77.6% of their regular pay during the first 390 days off; after this point, they receive a flat pay for the time off.
Most importantly, parents can take the time off at any time, up until the child is 8 years old.
Benefits are paid from Social Security.
Denmark 3 of 12Denmark offers 52 weeks of 100% paid maternity leave. Of this year, 18 weeks must be taken by the mother, and 2 weeks must be taken by the father. The remaining time can be divided up as the parents see fit.
Benefit costs are shared between the employer and government.
United Kingdom 4 of 12In the United Kingdom, you're currently entitled to 39 weeks of paid leave. Of this time, 6 weeks are at 90% of full pay, and the remainder of the time is at a flat rate. Most employers offer even better benefits to their employees.
As far as paternity leave goes, dads who have been employed for at least a year are entitled to 2 weeks at a fixed amount, as well as 4 additional unpaid weeks per year (up to 13 weeks in total). Employers are liable for maternity and paternity leave benefits; however, most of their costs are refunded by the government.
Argentina 5 of 12In Argentina, moms are lucky enough to get 90 days at 100% pay; however, dad are only entitled to 2 days of paid paternity leave. Benefits are paid from Social Security.
China 6 of 12China gives mom 90 days at 100% pay. There are no specific paternity benefits, and benefits are funded by Social Security.
Iraq 7 of 12Iraqi women are entitled to 62 days of 100% paid maternity leave. The government funds the benefits.
Philippines 8 of 12The Philippines offers one surprising maternity benefit - the policies extend to miscarriage as well as live births. In both cases, mothers are guaranteed 60 days of 100% pay. In the case of a c-section, mothers get 78 days at 100% pay.
Dads are guaranteed 7 days of paid paternity leave. In addition, single moms and dads get 7 days of 100% pay per year until the child is 18 (or indefinitely if the child has a disability).
Egypt 9 of 12In Egypt, moms get 13 weeks of 100% paid maternity leave. Benefits are shared between the government and employer.
Tunisia 10 of 12Tunisia doesn't offer moms a very long time off - only 30 days - but at least the leave is paid, at 67% of regular pay.
Dads working in the private sector get 1 day off; those in the pubic sector get 2 days off.
Canada 11 of 12In Canada, moms get 15 weeks of paid maternity leave (55% up to $468 a week). They may also combine maternity leave with paternity leave for a total of 50 weeks.
In 2000, Canucks expanded their paternity benefits, from 10 weeks to 35 weeks, which can be divided between the two parents as they see fit. These 35 weeks are offered at 55% pay (up to $468 a week).
India 12 of 12Indians moms get 12 weeks of leave at 100% pay. Employers are actually banned from allowing women to return to work within the first 6 weeks of birth! And in the unfortunate scenario of stillbirth or miscarriage, moms get 6 weeks of paid leave.
Federal employees get 180 days of leave.
Don’t miss Babble’s interview with Ricki Lake on Home Birth and the Business of Being Born!