The U.S. is one of eight countries in the world and the only OECD country without a national paid parental leave policy; the U.S. is also one of the few high-income countries without a national family caregiver or medical leave policy. This factsheet provides a brief overview of OECD parental leave and family caregiver policies.
Three types of parental leave benefits are generally available in OECD countries: maternity, paternity, and parental leave.
Provides paid, job-protected leave to working mothers before and after childbirth and, in some countries, after adoption. Currently, 33 out of 36 OECD countries offer paid maternity leave for an average of 16 weeks with a wage replacement rate of 55–100 percent (Figure 1). Seventeen countries offer mothers full compensation, while Japan and Canada provide the least generous wage replacement rates (67 and 55 percent, respectively—although low-income families in Canada can qualify for a maximum replacement rate of 80 percent).
Provides paid, job-protected leave to working fathers during or shortly after the birth of a child. Currently, 26 out of 36 OECD countries offer paid paternity leave for an average of 2 weeks with a wage replacement rate of 70–100 percent (Figure 1). Because paternity leave tends to be much shorter than other types of leave, it is often well paid. Twelve OECD countries offer full compensation, while Czech Republic and Finland offer the least compensation (70 percent). In terms of length of the leave, Iceland offers the most generous paternity leave: 12 weeks, Finland offers 9 weeks of paid paternity leave, compared to 1 week in the Czech Republic. In Belgium, same-sex partners have access to paternity leave benefits.
Provides paid, job-protected leave to working mothers and fathers around the time of childbirth and in some countries after adoption. Currently, 24 out of 36 OECD countries offer paid parental leave for an average of 45 weeks with a wage replacement rate of 55–100 percent (Figure 1).
In countries where maternity and paternity leave is also available, parental leave is supplementary and follows maternity and paternity leave periods. In a few countries, parental leave may be taken until the child is eight years old.
While paid parental leave is generally a shared benefit, countries often reserve specific periods for the use of mothers and fathers only. Sweden, for example, offers a total of 480 days of paid parental leave. Each parent gets a 90-day “mommy” and “daddy” quota paid at 78 percent of earnings. After that, parents have 255 days paid at 78 percent of earnings to share as they choose, followed by another 45 days paid at a flat rate.
In Japan, fathers have access to one of the most generous amounts of leave (52 weeks), but only 6 percent of eligible men working for private companies took parental leave in 2018, compared with more than 82 percent of mothers. As a result, Japan and a growing number of OECD countries are offering shared “bonus” paid weeks if both parents take leave in an effort to normalize the idea of fathers taking parental leave, diminish potential employer discrimination, boost family bonding, and increase gender equity at home and in the workplace.
In addition to parental leave, most OECD countries provide employees with paid, job-protected leave to care for a child at home or for an ill family member.
Child caregiving leave:
Provides paid, job-protected leave that allows at least one parent to provide short-term care to a sick child or care to an infant at home (often referred to as home care leave). Currently, 30 out of 36 OECD countries offer paid child caregiving leave benefits for children under 12 years of age with varying amounts of pay and leave periods (Table 1). Greece, Israel, Latvia, Luxembourg, Poland, and Spain provide child caregiving benefits until the child turns 18 years of age.
Family Caregiving Leave:
Provides paid, job-protected leave to provide care for a family member with a short-term, non-serious illness, or longer-term serious and/or terminal illness. Currently, 19 out 36 OECD countries offer paid family caregiving leave benefits with varying amounts of pay and leave periods. In Austria for example, workers can take a week of leave per year to care for a sick family member, while in other countries—e.g., Estonia, Spain, and Sweden—leave can be taken “per episode” throughout the course of a lifetime.
|Country||Child Caregiving||Family Caregiving|
|Australia||10 working days a year per worker to care for a family member|
|Austria||2 weeks a year per worker to care for a sick child under 12||1 week a year per worker to care for a family member needing care|
|Belgium||52 weeks per worker’s lifetime to care for a child under 8||52 weeks per worker’s lifetime to care for a severely ill family member and 2 months to provide palliative care|
|Chile||Working mothers have 10 days a year to care for a child between 1-18 years of age with a serious illness (i.e. cancer, organ transplant, or terminal disease)||10 days a year per worker to care for a disabled person for whom they are responsible|
|Czech Republic||Unlimited 9 days increments per worker to care for an ill child under 10||0|
|Denmark||1 day per worker per episode to care for a sick child||0|
|Estonia||14 calendar days per worker per episode to care for a sick child under 12||7 calendar days per worker per episode to care for an adult family member|
|Finland||Parents can take child caregiving leave from the end of parental leave until the child’s third birthday; worker also has 4 days per episode to care for a child under 10.||0|
|France||44 weeks per worker per episode to care for a child with a serious illness or disability under the age of 20||3 weeks per worker to care for a family member with a terminal illness|
|Germany||10 days a year per child (max of 25 days per parent) to care for a child under 12||10 days over the lifetime of the family member in need of care to care for a family member with an unexpected illness|
|Greece||Parents can take 15 weeks of child caregiving; 10 days a year to care for a seriously ill child under 18 years of age||0|
|Hungary||Parents may take child caregiving leave. Length of leave depends on the age of the child: under one year, unlimited; 12-35 months, up to 84 days per child a year; 36-71 months, 42 days; six to 12 years, 14 days.||0|
|Ireland||3 days a year per worker to care for a sick dependent|
|Israel||Parents may use up to 8 days a year of their sick leave to care for a sick child under 16||6 days a year per worker to care for a parent over 65|
|Italy||2 years per worker over the course of their lifetime to care for a seriously ill family member|
|Japan||93 days per subject family member and can only be taken 2 weeks at a time|
|Latvia||14 days per worker per sickness episode to care for a child 14 or younger, and 21 days if child has been admitted to hospital||0|
|Luxembourg||12 days per worker to care for a sick child under 4; 18 days for a child 4-13; 5 days for a child 13-18 and is in the hospital; for exceptional circumstances such as a disabled or terminally ill child (e.g. cancer) 52 weeks in a reference period of 104 weeks are available||0|
|Netherlands||Up to a maximum of two times a year the number of working hours per week to care for a sick child living at home, a sick partner or parent, other household members, family members, or friends.|
|New Zealand||5 days of sick leave can be taken a year per worker to care for a sick partner, dependent, or spouse.|
|Norway||10 working days a year per parent to care for a sick child under 12||0|
|Poland||144 weeks can be taken by parents as childcare leave up until the child turns 18||14 days a year per worker to care for a sick family member|
|Portugal||30 days a year per family can be taken to care for a sick child under the age of 12, with no age limit in the case of a child who is chronically ill or disabled; an additional 15 days a year per worker can be taken to care for a sick child above the age of 12||0|
|Slovak Republic||10 days a year per worker to care for a family member|
|Slovenia||15 working days per worker per episode to care for a sick child up to 7 years of age||7 working days per worker per episode to care for a sick family member|
|Spain||Parents have an undetermined time to care for a seriously ill child under 18||2 days per worker per episode to care for a seriously ill child or family member|
|Sweden||120 days a year per child to care for a child under 12||100 days per worker per episode to care for a seriously ill family member or other close relatives|
|Switzerland||3 days per worker per episode to care for a sick child||0|
Most OECD countries pay for parental leave programs using social insurance funds that are supported by employer, worker, and government contributions. Poland is the only country that relies solely on worker contributions, including contributions from self-employed workers.11 Sweden relies on equal contributions from employers and self-employed workers only. No OECD country finances benefits solely through employer contributions. Some countries fund parental leave through general taxes or health insurance.
Child and family caregiving leave, if not included in a social insurance fund, is generally paid through public, long-term care insurance.
Small Business Exemptions:
Most OECD countries do not exempt small businesses. However, several countries do attempt to address the disparate impact on small, medium, and large businesses. For example, Japan and Korea allow businesses with fewer than five employees to opt out of insurance plans for parental leave benefits. The UK allows small business owners to claim back 103 percent of payments, compared to only 92 percent for medium and large employers. In France, companies that develop family-friendly initiatives for their workers can qualify for a “family tax credit.”