Maternity Benefits Vary Greatly Among European Countries

May 10, 2006 ( - The UK and Ireland have the lowest levels of statutory maternity leave pay in Western Europe, according to a Mercer Human Resource Consulting study.

According to a Mercer news release, Denmark and Norway have the highest level of maternity benefits, more than twice as generous as those in the UK.

For women earning around £15,000 a year, the total pay accumulated after six months’ maternity leave would be just £3,700 in the UK and £4,100 in Ireland, the release said. Other countries at the low end of the scale include Germany at £4,150, as well as France, Spain and the Netherlands, all at £4,750.

On the other hand, pay received after six months’ leave in Italy would be £6,400 and as much as £7,700 in Denmark and Norway.

For Eastern European countries surveyed, results showed that Hungary has the highest level of maternity benefits where women would be entitled to £5,000 after six months’ leave, compared to £4,750 in Poland and £1,450 in the Czech Republic.

Large discrepancies also exist in the number of weeks of paid maternity leave in Western Europe, the study found. In Sweden, Norway and Denmark, women are entitled to as much as 96, 53 and 50 weeks of paid leave, respectively, while those in France, the Netherlands and Spain are only allowed 16 weeks of leave. In Germany, women get 14 weeks of paid leave.

In Eastern Europe, women in the Czech Republic get 28 weeks of leave, while those in Hungary are entitled to 24 weeks. Women in Poland are allowed 16 weeks of leave.

Mark Sullivan, Worldwide Partner at Mercer, noted in the release that while some countries offer generous lengths of paid leave, the pay is low and not everyone can afford to take the time.

The research is part of Mercer’s global analysis of employment conditions and benefits, used by multinational organizations to help determine employee reward packages in countries worldwide.

Mercer’s Worldwide Benefit and Employment Guidelines are available in four volumes: Western Europe, Eastern Europe, The Americas and Asia, and can be found at .