New Zealand’s paid parental leave increase, and how it compares to other countries

Stuff 1 July 2020
On Wednesday, paid parental leave in New Zealand increased from 22 weeks to 26 weeks, and rose by $20 a week.

Parents with children due on or after July 1 are now eligible for 26 weeks – a full six months – of leave.

Parental leave is a scheme for eligible working parents or other primary carers who stop working to care for their newborn baby or a child under the age of six who is now in their care.

Paid parental leave has been rising incrementally in New Zealand ever since parliament passed a bill back in 2017.

Before then, paid parental leave was just 18 weeks. That rose to 22 weeks on July 1, 2018, and finally to 26 weeks on Wednesday.

In July 2019, weekly parental leave payments increased from $564.38 per week to $585.80 per week before tax.

In a statement on Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that the eight-week increase in leave helped remove economic barriers for parents to spend “those all-important early months with their children”.

Although we’ve come a long way in supporting new Kiwi families, some other countries are leagues ahead of New Zealand, while some still lag behind.


Australia’s paid parental leave still sits at just 18 weeks for primary carers, which is 90 payable days.

However on July 1, 2020, some slight changes around flexible leave were added. New Australian parents can use their leave for 12 continuous weeks, which is 60 payable days, and also now have 30 flexible paid parental leave days.

The UK

There are a number of paid leave options for new parents in the United Kingdom. New parents can receive shared parental leave and statutory shared parental pay if having a baby or adopting.

This includes 50 weeks of shared leave between both people, but only 37 of those weeks are paid.

The leave and pay needs to be used in the first year after the child is born or adopted into the family. However, there is flexibility around whether the leave is used in blocks, all in one go, staggered or used by both parents at the same time.


In Sweden, new parents are paid out for 480 days of parental leave – that’s roughly 16 months.

According to a Swedish Government website, this leave can also be transferred between parents – so both parents can take 240 days each. According to the BBC, Sweden has the most generous parental leave system in Europe.

A change made last year in Sweden now allows for parental paid leave to be transferred to step-parents to make life easier for families.


By 2021, a parental allowance in Finland will increase from 12.7 months to more than 14 months for families expecting a new child.

According to a government release, both parents would receive an equal quota of 164 daily allowance days in Finland’s six-day-week system – about 6.6 months.

Parents can also transfer 69 days from their own quota to the other parent, and single parents can use both allowances.


Portugal has a gender-neutral paid leave system is place.

Under the parental benefit, new parents in Portugal can get up to 120 days paid at 100 per cent of their salary. There’s also a possible 30-day leave extension at 80 per cent of their salary.

Both parents can take the period between 120 and 160 days at the same time.


According to The Guardian, the US does not have a national statutory paid maternity, paternity or parental leave.

Some US employees are able to take up to 12 weeks unpaid maternity leave, the website states.

According to Forbes however, from October 2020, some federal employees will be able to take up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave under the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act (FEPLA). Although this act does not cover all US employees, progress is underway in this space, with some paid leave proposals before Congress.

Some US states, such as New York and California, have passed their own paid family leave laws. In California for example, those eligible for a paid family leave benefit can receive between 60-70 per cent of their wages for up to eight weeks, a California government website states.