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The world of employment law: Working parents and carers

23 February 2021

Many countries are continuing to deal with calls for greater leave entitlements and flexibility for working parents and carers.

The Netherlands increased paternity leave from five days to six weeks; Belgium increased it from 10 to 15 days (it will increase again to 20 days in 2023); and Italy increased it from five to seven days. Following a special referendum in 2020, Switzerland now offers new fathers 10 days’ paid leave. From 1 July 2021, France will also increase paternity leave, from 11 to 25 days (on top of the existing entitlement to three days’ birth leave which will remain unchanged).

The UAE made headlines for becoming the first Arab country to grant paid paternity leave for fathers. The new five-day entitlement must be taken within six months of the child’s birth.

Hong Kong increased paid maternity leave from ten to 14 weeks and, in line with this, extended the period within which paternity leave can be taken (from ten to 14 weeks from the birth date).

New Jersey introduced a “trail-blazing” 52 weeks of leave for each parent to be taken over a two-year period, with the first six weeks paid at 100% of salary.

From September 2020, Ireland increased unpaid parental leave entitlement by four weeks, up to 26 weeks. New Zealand extended its parental leave entitlement by the same amount (from 22 to 26 weeks), but in contrast to Ireland the leave is paid.

South Africa introduced three new forms of leave: parental leave; adoption leave; and commissioning parental leave (in surrogate motherhood agreements). Australia now provides access to up to 30 days’ flexible parental leave in the two years following birth or adoption. South Korea has also allowed employees to take “family care leave” for up to ten days per year, to care for a family member (including grandchildren or grandparents).

California expanded its family leave laws to cover employees working for smaller employers (five or more employees) and added grandparents, grandchildren and siblings to the list of family members in respect of whom employees may take leave. Luxembourg is proposing to extend leave for family reasons to grandparents and allow them to share parental leave, while increasing leave eligibility for those with children aged up to 12.

The UK introduced parental bereavement leave for working parents who lose a child under 18 and the recently elected Labour government in New Zealand plans to allow employees to take bereavement and “family violence” leave as needed. Australia now provides 12 months’ unpaid parental leave for parents impacted by stillbirth or infant death.

Finally, in Germany, there is a draft Bill to allow company board members to suspend their duties for a time under specific circumstances such as caring for a family member.

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