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The 5 countries with the lowest parental leave allowances

Following from last week, we investigate the 5 countries with the least generous mandated parental leave allowances

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Despite a general appetite for progressive employment policies and better work-life balance around the world, some countries are bucking the trend when it comes to parental leave allowances.

In some locations, leave policies are left to the discretion of the employer – rather than mandated by the government. Other countries might offer high rates of pay for the leave a parent does take, but limit the number of days they can take to a bare minimum.

Reasons behind the decision to offer ungenerous parental leave policies or no policies at all are manifold. It could be an attempt to encourage parents back into the workforce and contribute to the economy as soon as possible – the age demographic of most parents usually makes up the largest proportion of the workforce. In locations with high populations, lower parental leave allowances have been argued to slow down the birth rate.

However, poor parental leave allowances have been said to perpetuate inequality. Those that most need parental leave, such as low income families, cannot afford to utilise unpaid or low paid leave. While many countries are moving towards more parity between the genders when it comes to parental leave, countries with low or unpaid allowances for the father often have low rates of take-up. When the gender pay gap is factored, it can be extremely costly to families if the father makes use of a low or unpaid paternal leave policy.

Wealthy countries can sometimes be the worst offenders when it comes to a lack of generosity in mandated parental leave. Following on from last week’s analysis of the countries with the best allowances for new parents, this time we’re looking at those with the worst or lowest – and some of the results might be surprising.

USA Flag Icon

1. USA

Maternity leave: 0 days

Paternity leave: 0 days

Shared additional parental leave: 0 days

Despite being one of the world’s richest countries, the US doesn’t offer national statutory parental leave. Some employers choose to offer maternity and paternity packages, but this is entirely at their discretion, and is not supported or funded by the government.

While some states have passed their own parental leave laws, there is no federal mandate for companies to support employees who are new or expectant parents. As a result, the US is usually considered among the worst countries in the world for parental leave.


Turkish Flag Icon

2. Turkey

Maternity leave: 16 weeks

Paternity leave: 3 days

Shared additional parental leave: 0 days

Turkey allows mothers 16 weeks maternity leave, with 8 weeks to be taken before the birth and 8 weeks to be taken after. After this, mums can apply for up to 6 months’ unpaid leave.

With fathers only allowed to take 3 days of parental leave, Turkey has some of the tightest parental leave allowances in the world.


Mexican Flag Icon

3. Mexico

Maternity leave: 18 weeks

Paternity leave: 5 days

Shared additional parental leave: 0 days

Mexico’s parental leave policy is only slightly more generous than Turkey’s, with fathers being allowed 2 extra days. 12 weeks of maternity leave is paid at 100% of the mother’s salary, while the rest is offered at half-pay — so this option is only really viable for mothers on high salaries.

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4. Australia

Maternity leave: 18 weeks

Paternity leave: 2 weeks

Shared additional parental leave: 0 days

Like the US, Australia is a relatively rich country with a relatively poor parental leave law. Mothers can take up to 18 weeks and fathers or partners can take up to 2 weeks, which is paid at national minimum wage.

Altogether, this allows parents to take leave until their baby is 5 months old — after which they must take unpaid leave (which can be rejected by their employer) or find childcare for their baby.


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5. Switzerland

Maternity leave: 14 weeks

Paternity leave: 2 weeks

Shared additional parental leave: 0 days

Switzerland is known for its wealth and prosperity — and yet it has one of the worst parental leave allowances in Europe. While leave is paid at 80% of the parent’s wages — a figure to rival Nordic countries — Switzerland only allows mothers 14 weeks (approximately 3.5 months) of maternity leave.

Mauve Group’s experts in compliance, HR and local labour laws can help you navigate parental leave policies across your global workforce – get in touch here for a no obligation quote.