Do Early Childhood Professionals Get Paid Maternity Leave?

As an employer of other early childhood professionals, I had to know whether they were entitled to paid maternity leave, so I did some research about Australia and the United States.

Do early childhood professionals get paid maternity leave? Early childhood professionals do get paid maternity leave depending on the country they live in.  Australia is mandated by federal law and they have 14 weeks of paid maternity leave, but in the US, even though some may get paid maternity leave, they have one of the worst systems in the world and do not guarantee it by law.

It is important to know the laws for where you live to ensure you are receiving the correct maternity leave but you also have to be aware of the stipulations on unpaid maternity leave that may affect your teacher registration and ability to return to work.  There are also questions that you need to ask before you even fall pregnant that can make all the difference financially.

Are Their Stipulations or Rules That Apply To Paid Maternity Leave?  In order to get paid maternity leave, participants in the scheme must be aware of any rules or regulations that accompany it.

Because each country has their own regulations here are some helpful questions to ask to make sure you qualify for the full benefits:

  • Is there a mandatory time stipulated that you have to cease work before commencing maternity leave?
  • Do you have the option of taking half pay over twice the allotted timeframe?
  • Is paid maternity leave taxable?
  • How long can I take unpaid maternity leave for without having to retrain before I return to work?
  • Am I eligible for benefits if I adopt a child?
  • Am I eligible for any available baby bonuses if I get paid maternity leave?
  • How long does it take to process my claim for benefits before I can get paid?
  • How do I know what my payments will be?
  • What record keeping do I need to be aware of to comply with requirements?
  • Can I get paid maternity leave if I am a Father?

Questions to ask before you even get pregnant:

  • What are your personal circumstances and preferences?
  • What is your current financial situation?
  • What is your country’s paid maternity leave policy?
  • What is your employer’s paid maternity leave policy?
  • Are there any maternity leave clauses in your contract?

Information on Various Countries

Paid Maternity Leave in Australia

Australia is one of the countries that has federally approved paid maternity leave. It is actually called Parental Leave Pay (PLP).  It lasts for 14 weeks at full time pay, but you also have the option of having half pay for 28 weeks which is a really popular option.

Here are the details at a glance:

Description or QuestionDetails
Type of paymentPaid Parental Leave
Length of time14 weeks full pay or 28 weeks ½ pay
Latest changes to the schemeFrom 1 July 2020, eligible employees have the option of splitting their Parental Leave Pay so they take it over 2 periods within 2 years.
Condition of Parental Leave Pay (PLP)Employees are able to claim PLP for 1 set period and 1 flexible period. The first period of PLP is available for up to 12 weeks and must be taken all together continously, within 12 months of the birth or adoption of a child. The second period of PLP is flexible and available for up to 30 days.  It usually starts after the first period ends or can be used within any time within 24 months of a child’s birth or adoption. 
Flexible periods must be arranged and approved in consultation with the employer.
Are there any other benefits paid on top of PLP?The Australian Government pays Parental Leave Pay but it is also possible for employees to get additional parental leave from their employer
How is it paid?The Australian Government pays it to the employer who then pays the employee
Can I get PLP during other leave periods?Employees can use PLP before, after or at the same time as their paid and unpaid entitlements such as annual leave, long service leave and unpaid parental leave.
What records do I need to keep?Employees must get payslips for PLP payments.  It must stipulate the payments are PLP under the Australian Government PLP Scheme Employers will also have specific record keeping requirements such as dates payments were made and to whom (gross and net including PAYG payments), period it covers and any deductions that were taken out
How much will I receive?For current payment amounts, visit Centrelink
Will I receive Employer funded payments?Every employer has the right to negotiate their own paid parental benefits.  This will vary from company to company so check your contract for details.
Do I receive any payments if I am the Father an my wife is on paid maternity leave?Yes.  In Australia, spouses (including same sex couples) are entitled to 2 weeks paid parental leave paid at the national minimum wage Just beaware that only 1 parent can take parental leave at a time
Anything else I should know?There may be residence and income based requirements so check those.  There is no stipulation that you need to stop work for any period of time before delivery or adoption

Paid Maternity Leave in United States

Unfortunately, the United States has one of the worst paid maternity leave schemes for a developed country.  It, Suriname, Papua New Guinea and a few island countries in the Pacific ocean are the only countries who are a part of the united nations who are not required to provide paid time off for the birth or adoption of a child.  While some states have passed laws for paid maternity leave (California, Connecticut, Massachusetts. New Jersey and Rhode Island) there is no national scheme that mandates all employees get paid maternity leave.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the average length of paid maternity leave is 17.7 weeks, with the period extended as long as 43 weeks in countries like Greece.

Leave, including maternity leave is regulated by US labor law.  In 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act required 12 weeks of unpaid leave for months of newborn or newly adopted children but there were stipulations – companies had to have more than 50 employees.

No mandatory paid leave on a national scale applies in the US.

Here is some US specific information at a glance:

WESTERN STATESMaternity Leave Information
CaliforniaMaximum 4 months – two-thirds of wages or up to a cap of $490 a week
HawaiiMaximum 6 weeks
15 days for adopting parents Women may collect 58 percent of their average weekly wages from the state up to a maximum of 26 weeks.
MontanaMust have worked a min of 90 days in a workplace that has more than 25 employees 6 weeks for a birth or adoption of a child
Washington6 – 8 weeks
Company must be min 8 employees
Montana6 weeks for childbirth 15 days for adopting parents
OregonTemporary workers hired for less than 6 months not covered. Min work 90 days for a company with min 25 employees 12 weeks for a birth or adoption of a child up to 6 years of age
IowaWorkplaces min 4 employees Up to 8 weeks
KansasWorkplaces min 4 employees Up to 6-8 weeks
MinnesotaMin 21 employees Worked min 12 months Up to 6 weeks
ConnecticutMin 3 employees 6 – 8 weeks
New JerseyWorked min 1,000 hours and been in job min 12 weeks Payments 4 weeks before birth and 6 weeks after (normal birth) or 8 weeks after (caesarean) Two-thirds of pay up to $401 per week  
New YorkWorked minimum 12 weeks 50% of pay for max 26 weeks (max $170 per week)
MaineMin 25 employees Min 12 months worked 10 weeks leave over a 2 weeks period.  Health insurance must continue during that time and employer may require you to pay it.
Massachusetts  Min 6 employees
Min 6 months worked 8 weeks for birth or adoption (up to 18 years or up to 23 years if child has a disability). Health insurance does not need to be continued
New HampshireMin 6 employees Nonprofit, religious, educational, fraternal, and charitable corporations are exempt 6-8 weeks (some conditions with healthcare continuance)
Rhode IslandMin 12 weeks worked 60% of wages up to $504 a week Max 30 weeks
VermontMin 10 employees Min 30 hours a week for 12 months worked Up to 12 weeks. Healthcare must continue and you may be required to pay it
KentuckyAll employees adopting a child under 7 years 6 weeks of family leave
Louisiana  Min 26 employees Max 4 months Not required to continue healthcare
D.C. & Puerto Rico   
District of Columbia  Min 20 employees Min 1,000 in past 12 months worked 16 weeks every 2 years for every new child born or newly adopted child
Puerto Rico  Open to all working women 50% pay up to 8 weeks Additional 12 weeks can be applied for if there are complications

Paid Maternity Leave in Other Countries in the World

Chile, Estonia, the Netherlands and Spain are just four of many countries that account for 100 per cent of average earnings, all with longer leave periods. Other countries have great paid maternity leave schemes, so Australia and the United States are certainly trailing.

Some stats at a glance (FRE = Full Rate Equivalent)

CountryMaternity Leave Available
Estonia84 weeks FRE(166 weeks total) 20 weeks fully paid leave plus 62 weeks of maximum paid parental leave.  After that, monthly payments drop considerably but continue until the child is 3 years
Austria49 weeks FRE (60 weeks total) Women are not allowed to work 8 weeks before and 8 weeks after the birth of a child.  Employees are paid their full average net income for the previous 3 months with no cap
Japan36 weeks FRE (58 weeks total) 6 weeks are compulsory but paid leave is available for 14 weeks at two-thirds of the average earnings.  Paid leave can be taken by both Mother and Father at a percentage of earnings until the baby turns 1 year.  It can be extended up to 14 months if both parents take it.
Sweden35 weeks FRE (56 weeks total) 10 weeks full time rate followed by 480 days of parental leave
Chile30 weeks FRE (30 weeks total) Females with permanent contracts are entitled to leave.  They must take 6 weeks before the birth and 12 weeks after. Additionally, women can take a further 12 months or transfer it to the other spouse.
Iceland18 weeks FRE (26 weeks total) All parents are entitled to paid leave (even unemployed and students.  New employees and self-employed are entitled to 80% of their salary. With huge gender pay gaps, men receive more than women.
Australia14 weeks FRE
United Kingdom12 weeks FRE (39 weeks total) Female employees can take up to 52 weeks of paid leave. 
*First 6 weeks – 90% *Following 33 weeks – maximum of just under 150 pounds a week. *Final 13 weeks not paid.  
Mexico12 weeks FRE (12 weeks total) The Entire 12 weeks are compulsory (6 weeks before and 6 weeks after the birth) 100% of wages are paid with no cap Only paid to workers of the formal economy which is about 40% of all employed women
United States0 weeks FRE (0 weeks total)

What About Unpaid Maternity Leave?

In Australia, you can only take unpaid maternity leave for a period of up to 12 months.  For an early childhood professional who is board certified, they must have taught 100 hours within the last 5 years, or a return to teaching program must be completed before they return.

In the US there is 12 weeks of federally mandated unpaid maternity leave.

Diana Cameron

Diana has over 32 years in the early childhood industry and has been a guest lecturer and workshop facilitator both nationally and internationally for the past 20 years. She has a passion for inspiring educators to use creativity and imagination in their teaching.

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