Saturday, March 16, 2013

Maternity & Parental Leave

With Claudia and Norbert expecting Tünde soon, I thought it would be interesting to chronicle some of the things involved with having a baby in Czechland.  I'll just start with comparing parental leave in the ČR and the USA.

In ČR, a woman is legally entitled to 28 weeks of maternity leave.  For twins, she gets 37 weeks.  The maternity leave can start up to eight weeks before the baby's due date.  However, a woman must start her maternity leave no later than six weeks prior to the due date.  Pregnancy is considered an illness so maternity leave is covered under sickness insurance benefits, normally at around 70% of one's salary.  There's no super complicated process for this either.  A physician fills out a statutory form that gets turned in to HR and the company submits it to the state.

Then the parental leave kicks in.  Mothers can take 2, 3, or 4 years of paid maternity leave.  If another child comes along while mom is out on maternity leave then the time gets extended.  Some companies offer bonuses to mothers that come back after six months or one year.  By the way, either mom or dad can take the parental leave so it's usually the one with the lower income.  Both may actually take parental leave at the same time but only one will receive state support. 

The money received by the state is proportionate to the duration of the time away.  The two-year plan pays about 11,400 Kč ($575) per month.  The three-year plan pays 7.600 Kč ($384) per month.  The four-year plan pays 7,600 Kč per month for the first nine months and then pays 3,800 Kč ($192) per month.  For children with disabilities, a parent is entitled to seven years of leave at 7,600 Kč per month.

Once the duration of parental leave has been chosen it cannot be changed.  It is very difficult to find day care for children under three years of age.  Since the government is paying money for a parent to stay at home, children under 3 cannot go to preschool more than five days per month.  While children over 3, cannot go to preschool more than four hours per day.  These rules are probably why most mothers, or fathers, end up staying at home for three years following the birth of a child.  Not a bad deal at all.

There are only four countries in the world that have no national law requiring paid maternity leave.  They are Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland and the USA.  Ouch!

In the USA, there is the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA).  As long as the company employs 50 or more people within 75 miles, and as long as the employee has worked a minimum of 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months, then the employee is entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.  It's no wonder that in the USA, it's not uncommon for women to work right up to their due date.

The FMLA is the national law.  Each state is allowed to mandate additional benefits.  For example, California requires paid family leave.  It really is embarrassing that the USA is the only industrialized country in the world that doesn't mandate paid leave for childbirth. 

Update: In 2016, the Czech government provided for one-week of paid paternity leave to fathers.
Update 2019:  Extended benefits.
Update 2020:  Parental benefits increased.

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