Everything you need to know about maternity leave in the Netherlands in 2021

What does maternity leave in the Netherlands look like? Well, parents are quite lucky in terms of maternity leave in the Netherlands. (Though nothing compared to the UK where you can take up to one year off after having a baby).

If you are employed when you get pregnant 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 two 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 six weeks before your due date. However, in all cases, it is mandatory to take leave by week 36 (four 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 €223.40 per day in 2021. This is worked out over the last 12 months.

Fathers and partners get a much more raw deal — they are only entitled to one week of paid paternity leave, and five additional weeks of partially paid leave.

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 six months and a half (26 weeks). You may take this leave all in one go, or, more commonly, take one day a week (the famous mamadag or papadag) for two 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. One day with mom, one day with dad, one day with maternal grandparents, one day with paternal grandparents.

This means the kid would only need to spend one day at daycare (also subsidized when both parents work). For international parents without help from family it’s a whole other story, but the subsidy for daycare still applies.

Maternity Leave in The Netherlands
Prepare to be worn out! Image: Amanda Steck/Supplied.

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 in The Netherlands
Aww… Enjoy your maternity leave in The Netherlands! Image: Amanda Steck/Supplied.

Maternity leave is a very much needed time 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.

What have your experiences with maternity leave been? Let us know in the comments below.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on 16 March 2018, but was updated for your reading pleasure on 16 January 2021.
Feature image: Daniel Nebreda/Pixabay

Amanda Steck
I am a Mexican girl, born to a Swiss father and married to a Dutch guy, living in The Netherlands for 9 years (oh how time flies!). I have a background in Biology and Veterinary medicine and a passion for travel, writing, baking, reading, discovering bookshops jumping around like crazy and red dresses. I also blog at Poppies and Ice-cream.


  1. Parents are lucky in the Netherlands??? Go check the German law, it’s much better…. I don’t understand why people try to hide that it’s really bad here. People should be against this ridiculous 16-weeks leave and put pressure on the government!

  2. This must be written from a US point of view where you don’t get anything if you don’t work. For all other countries the mat leave laws are just outrageous. I really don’t understand how the Netherlands have such a high birth rate with these bullshit conditions…

    • Totally agree. Coming from Norway myself and having a Dutch partner with whom I am currently living in the Netherlands, I have made one completely unnegotiable demand: that we move to Norway before having children and stay there at least until they reach school age. It’s a completely unacceptable idea for me to have only 16 weeks of paid leave (and only a few weeks for him) and then having to pay absurd amounts of money for daycare if we both want to pursue our careers. No thanks – we’ll be taking our 49 weeks of fully paid leave and close to free fulltime daycare in Norway instead!

  3. It is one of the worst xountriest in Europe when it comes to maternity leave. Why would you say we are lucky to have 16 weeks? That is nothing when yoir whole life changes.

  4. Are you guys sure that just the woman that is working for more than one year is entitled to maternity leave?
    ” If you are employed when you get pregnant (and have been so for a year) you are entitled to 16 weeks of maternity leave ”

    So, if she is not working for at least one year, how long is the maternity leave ?

  5. What if my income is higher than 200 a day? Also I read about parental leave somewhere, it’s 20+ weeks I think but wasn’t explained well..is it paid?

    • Hi Milka, did you get any responses on that? I’m in the same boat and hearing that Dutch companies pay the difference but I work for a start-up who never had a pregnant person so trying to build my case.

  6. It’s incredibly frustrating to say, “100% pay, capped at €223.40 per day”…that’s NOT 100% THEN!!


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