Maternity leave in The Netherlands
Parents are quite lucky in terms of maternity leave in the Netherlands. (Though nothing compared to the UK where you can take up to 1 year off after having a baby). If you are employed when you get pregnant (and have been so for a year) you are entitled to 16 weeks of maternity leave (zwangerschapsverlof). This is true even if you’re self-employed! You are also allowed to decide when you start your leave. However, make sure you tell your employer a minimum of 2 weeks before you intend to take your maternity leave in the Netherlands!
Taking your maternity leave in the Netherlands can be done at any moment from 6 weeks before due date (34 weeks of pregnancy). However, in all cases it is mandatory to take leave by week 36 (4 weeks before birth). Also, leaving at least 12 weeks of maternity leave after the baby is born. In special cases (eg. premature birth) the leave starts counting from the moment of birth.
You’re entitled to 100% of your earnings, throughout your leave – a maximum of €203.85 per day. This is worked out over the last 12 months.
If only it was that easy 😉
Parental leave in the Netherlands
Then there is also parental leave (ouderschapsverlof), where both parents are entitled to take 26 times their working hours. This time can be distributed in different ways and can be taken until the child turns 8. So, for example, let’s say you work 40 hours: you are entitled to 26 x 40 = 1040 hours (130 eight hour days), which roughly amounts to 6 months and a half (26 weeks). You may take this leave all in one go, or, more commonly, take 1 day a week (the famous “mamadag” or “papadag”) for 2 years and a half or so (counting 52 weeks a year).
Dutch people with both sets of grandparents who are able and willing to help with childcare have a good deal. 1 day with mom, 1 day with dad, 1 day with maternal grandparents, 1 day with paternal grandparents. This means the kid would only need to spend 1 day at daycare (also subsidized when both parents work). For international parents without help from the family it’s a whole other story, but the subsidy for daycare still applies.
New proposal for maternity and paternity leave in the Netherlands
Recently, there has been a proposal from the Dutch social and economic council (SER) to concentrate maternity and paternity leave in such a way that dads / partners get at least 6 weeks of leave after the birth of a baby. Currently, even though both parents are entitled to parental leave, it is mostly mothers that take it. It is often distributed over several years. Not many dads/partners benefit from being close to the new child in those early, raw, postpartum days. I know people think maternity leave is like a vacation. (Really, click on that link and see how the French comic artist Emma illustrates the physical and emotional struggles of new motherhood – and how things could be made better.)
Maternity leave is a very much time needed for women to heal. To get their act together. To recognize themselves as mothers. The brain changes after pregnancy in very drastic and permanent ways. Having their partner by their side -full time- on those early weeks would mean so much. It could really make a difference in a time when not only a new baby is born, but a new mother and a new family.
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