Graphic of father working at home with young child

Three European Paternity Leave Updates HR Needs to Know About

For many HR teams managing employees in the United States, paternity leave is a foreign concept—literally. The U.S. is one of the world’s few countries with no federal paternity leave requirements, though several U.S. states include paternity leave in their paid family leave policies. While government-guaranteed time off for new fathers is relatively uncommon in the U.S., the practice is widespread internationally. 

Japan leads the world by providing 30 weeks of paid leave for new fathers. Korea, which offers 15 weeks of paternity leave, ranked second worldwide until Spain recently increased its minimum leave for new fathers to 16 weeks. 

Spain is one of three European countries, along with France and Switzerland, rolling out new paternity leave policies in 2021. HR personnel who manage teams in these countries must adjust their policies to comply with local labor laws. 

Spain Paternity Leave Changes For the Third Time in Three Years

Spain implemented its new paternal leave policy on January 1, 2021. The government now offers new fathers 16 weeks of paid leave—the same length provided to new mothers. The state is responsible for paying 100% of a male employee’s salary while away from work.

Though Spain now offers both mothers and fathers the same amount of leave, the parents cannot roll over unused time off to one another. For example, a father cannot transfer his untaken leave to the mother, nor vice versa. By prohibiting parents from transferring unused time to one another, Spain encourages mothers and fathers to more evenly divide care, according to María Pazos, Director of Research on Gender and Public Policies at Spain’s Institute for Fiscal Studies. “Leave is longer in northern Europe, but since it is transferable, it is usually used by women, which is a trap in the end,” Pazos said

Spain has increased its paternity leave for three consecutive years. In 2019, the government raised paternity leave to eight weeks, then to 12 weeks in 2020. Thanks to these increases, along with the full pay guaranteed to employees during leave, Spain now offers one of the world’s most generous paternity leave policies. 

Paternity Leave in France Doubles in 2021

Like Spain, France announced in late 2020 that it was extending its paternity leave in 2021. The country doubles its paid leave for new fathers from 14 days to 28 days, with the change taking effect in July. French President Emmanuel Macron said his government designed the new policy to more evenly split childcare duties between mothers and fathers. “When a baby arrives in the world, there is no reason it should be just the mother who takes care of it,” Macron said

Under the updated paternity leave policy, new fathers must take at least seven days off after childbirth. The rest of the time is optional. Employers must pay the employee for the first three days he takes off, while the state is responsible for paying the salary for the rest of the leave. Employers that do not provide male employees with at least seven days off from work face fines of up to 7,500 euros

France’s new paternity leave system requires that fathers take their time off in a consecutive one-week or two-week period. Similar to Spain’s updated law, France’s policy prohibits fathers from rolling over unused time to the mother. However, women can transfer some of their 50-week maternity leave to fathers who wish to spend more time at home with their new child. 

Switzerland Finally Mandates Paternity Leave

While Spain extends its paternity leave for the third straight year and France doubles its existing policy, Switzerland introduced mandatory paternity leave for the first time. Switzerland’s new policy consists of up to 14 days off for new fathers. Previously, new fathers could claim one or two days of leave through their “normal days off”, but had no access to time solely designated for paternity leave. 

Under Switzerland’s new paternity leave policy, fathers can take their leave any time over the six months following childbirth. Employees can take their time off over 14 consecutive days, including weekends, or over ten individual, non-consecutive days. Employers cannot decrease the time off given to an employee unless the employee agrees to the reduction. 

Employers must pay employees 80% of their salary during their days off—the same percentage that employers pay mothers on maternity leave. The daily pay during paid leave can not exceed 196 Swiss Francs per day ($219). To finance the paid leave, Switzerland requires employers and employees to increase their contributions to the country’s income replacement scheme (EO) from 0.45% to 0.5%.  

Stay Ahead of Leave Changes Across the World

While European countries catch up to Japan regarding employee-friendly paternity leave policies, U.S. workers seek similar benefits. A recent survey of Prudential Financial employees reveals that 72% want policymakers to prioritize paid family leave. That’s why HR leaders who manage employees overseas aren’t the only ones who must pay attention to evolving international paternity leave laws. U.S. HR leaders looking to improve employee satisfaction and retention start by introducing leave policies modeled after leading countries worldwide. 

Whether your HR team manages employees in the U.S. or abroad, Velocity Global has the expertise to ensure your leave policies reflect the latest changes in international regulations. Contact us today to discover how our experts help companies in over 185 countries offer the right leave and benefits to their employees.

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