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Maternity Leave in different countries

Maternity Leave in different countries

Did you know – the most common birth-date in the UK is September 26th? Must be something to do with couples feeling that bit more amorous as the stresses and strains of the Christmas period begin to take their toll, right?

We don’t get it. But what we do get is an annual influx of queries from expectant expat mums, wondering about their rights to maternity leave as they reach the midway point of their term.

Maternity leave is a hot topic for women across the world right now, especially for expats. The question of how much paid time off countries—and multinational companies—offer, can dominate conversation among new mothers.

How long new mothers can stay off work varies greatly from country to country. In addition, the amount of maternity pay you receive can be worlds apart, depending on where you now live. Reliable information can be hard to come by, and so we decided to take our own hack through the maternity leave jungle, to find out just how much time is afforded in the main expat hotspots.

The UK landscape

In the UK, paid maternity leave can extend up to six months. Statutory maternity pay entitles new mothers to 90% of their average weekly earnings before tax for the first six weeks of leave, then £140.98 each week for the next 33 weeks. In the UK, mothers have the legal right to return to the same job they left at the end of their first six months of maternity leave. They can also take a further six months of unpaid leave, for a total of 52 weeks, and a similar job must await them upon return.

The United States

The US is one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t provide nationwide paid maternity leave. In fact, the US is one of only eight of the United Nations member states that do not have a national program for paid parental leave. Some US companies will allow new mothers to fashion some paid leave by combining holiday leave and sick leave, but they are the exceptions—the majority have no paid leave at all. That is unless you are lucky enough to live in either California, New Jersey or Rhode Island, who now require private-sector employers to provide at least some maternity pay.


Ah, Sweden, the envy of expectant parents all over the world. According to the United Nations, this family-friendly nation offers the longest-paid maternity leave in the world. Swedish parents are entitled to 480 days of paid parental leave, with 390 of those days at 80% of the mother’s daily after-tax pay. Sixty of those days are reserved for fathers. Uniquely, Sweden also offers parents the option of saving any days they don’t take off, to use when the child turns 12 years old.

The Netherlands

In the Netherlands, new mums are eligible for 16 weeks maternity leave, receiving 100% of their earnings, which is paid for by the government. Those who choose to take more than the statutory 16 weeks maternity leave must apply to their local social security office for voluntary sickness benefits insurance. Expectant mothers must start their maternity leave at least four weeks before their due date, and at the end of the maternity leave, can choose to return to work, or take part-time parental leave, provided their employer allows it.


In France, it is mandatory to take a minimum of eight weeks maternity leave, and up to a maximum of 16 weeks, which must be split – six weeks before the due date, and ten weeks after the birth. New mothers will receive pay equal to their average wage during the three-month period before the birth, which is paid for by public healthcare. In order to qualify for parental leave in France, women must have worked at least 150 hours within a period of three months prior to the birth.


Statutory maternity leave in Spain is 16 weeks paid leave, with at least six of those weeks to be taken after the birth. In order to qualify for maternity leave as an expat in Spain, expectant mothers must hold a Spanish residence permit, and have registered with the social security office and made contributions for a minimum of 180 days during the previous seven years. In Spain, it is possible to take up to three years unpaid leave and return to the same employer, although they are under no obligation to give you the same job back after one year.


In Germany, expectant mothers are afforded six weeks maternity leave prior to the birth, and eight weeks after the birth. New mothers receive 13 euros a day, plus 65% of their last pay. Mothers are allowed to take up to three years family leave, though with just one year at 60% of their salary.


In Japan, expectant mothers can take six weeks off prior to the due date, and eight weeks off once the baby arrives – even if the mother wishes to return to work. To receive maternity pay of around 60% of the monthly salary, women must have paid into a health insurance scheme provided by an employer for at least a year (since employers do not pay a salary during leave).


In Australia, employers are required by law to provide 12 months’ maternity leave. To qualify, the person needs to have been in the job for 10 months, of the 13 months before the birth. Eager to attract top talent, employers in Australia use parental leave and a more favourable work-life balance to offer competitive packages.


Singapore – an expat favourite, and perennial chart-topper on several ‘best country for expats’ lists. Non-Singaporean working mothers are entitled to 12 weeks of maternity leave (16 weeks for native Singaporeans), which can be taken from four weeks before the due date. Seeing the benefits of a talented workforce, Singaporean employers are trying to become much more family-oriented and flexible when it comes to accommodating employees with families.

Wherever you choose to call home and to start a family, it’s important that the maternity rights give you the much-needed time and opportunity to embrace and enjoy parenthood in those early months. We recommend you keep abreast of the latest developments and changes to maternity rights, as they are changing all the time.

Here at Currency UK, we can’t help you master mat leave, but we can help you master your money. To ensure you’re squeezing the maximum amount of value from your maternity payments, why not sign up for one of our one-to-one Currency Clinics? You will receive personalised advice on how best to handle your payments overseas.

Let’s face it, you’ll soon have more pressing matters at hand… September is just a few months away!

Good luck.

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