Parenthood in Europe – a Comparison of the Basic Conditions for Employees
12 March 2020
Pregnancy is supposed to be the happiest time of a mother-to-be’s life, but it can also be quite stressful. Naturally, a pregnant employee is constantly thinking about her unborn baby AND the responsibilities demanded at work. The last thing a pregnant mother wants to spend time worrying about is whether her job is safe after she has taken the entitled time off work to deal with her pregnancy and, eventually, the new child.
The design of maternity leave policies across most European countries is shaped by a traditional concept of leave intended only for women, linked to pregnancy, childbirth and the first months of motherhood. Also be aware that the EU directive pertaining to maternity leave includes part-time workers, fixed-term contract workers and temporary workers.
In recent years many EU countries have made changes to the design of maternity leave provisions through the introduction of parental and paternity leave schemes, and by allowing mothers to transfer part of the maternity leave periods to the other parent. These policy developments reflect calls for greater gender equality and a more equal share of childcare responsibilities.
Today, most employed mothers are entitled to statutory maternity leave. In this article, we are focusing on general conditions from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia.
Maternity leave granted for an employee about to give birth begins during the last phases of pregnancy and usually lasts a couple of months after the child is born. In some countries, a specific part of maternity leave is considered as compulsory for female employees, while the non-compulsory part may be taken by the father of the child, splitting the leave among both parents. Hence, in those countries, the paternity leave equals the remaining, non-compulsory part of the maternity leave.
The most generous country, Slovakia, provides 34 weeks for mothers, followed by the Czech Republic with 28 weeks. Twenty-four weeks are granted in Hungary, 20 weeks in Poland and Russia, 18 in Romania, 15 in Slovenia, 14 in Croatia, 13 in Serbia, 12 weeks in the Republic of Serbia and 6 weeks in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Paternity leave plays a less significant role in most countries compared to maternity leave. However, as mentioned above, in some countries the non-compulsory part of the leave granted for mothers may be overtaken by the fathers. These countries are, for instance, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.
As for the other locations, the most generous is once again Slovakia with 6 weeks of paternity leave, followed by Slovenia with 4 weeks. Two weeks is granted for fathers in Poland, while the labour law in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Russia and Serbia specifies only 1 week for a firm's father-to-be employees.
Parental leave is a non-compulsory absence related to parenthood, usually lasting a couple of years. The length may depend on various conditions, such as:
- Number of children born: the Serbian labour law provides 9 to 12 months of leave. Employees in Poland are granted 32 to 34 weeks, while the change of the length depends on whether or not twins are born.
- Health condition of the child: employees in Hungary are provided 3 to 10 years of leave, while in Slovakia they are given 3 to 6 years.
In Slovenia, the length of the leave depends on whether both parents are taking it, or only one. Therefore, it can last either 130 or 260 days. As for the other countries, the Croatian labour law provides 8 years of parental leave, the Czech Republic and Russia grants 3 years and Romania 2 years. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the length of parental leave is not specified.
Special Contributions to Parenthood
While some countries describe only the necessary matters related to parenthood in their labour code, others take a step further and contribute to it in a more advanced way. For example, pregnant employees are granted paid leave for medical examinations related to their pregnancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia. Naturally, the paid leave is granted upon a valid certificate post-examination (proof of visit). Furthermore, employees in Romania have the right to three additional paid days spent away from work in case they follow in vitro fertilization procedures.
Upon an Employee's Return to Work
What happens when you have exhausted your allowed time away from work to deal with your new child? The EU directive stipulates that workers have the right to return to the same or equivalent job after the end of the parental leave period. Member EU states and/or social partners are to define the status of the employment contract during parental leave and take measures to protect workers against less favorable treatment or dismissal when taking parental leave.