Paid Maternity Leave and Reduced Schedules for Working Mothers in Spain
These measures are aimed at covering a woman’s need to balance work and family life. Thanks to these laws, women can have children without fear of losing their jobs and source of income.
Unfortunately, the United States is one of the only countries in the industrialized world that doesn’t require paid leave.
American women are allowed 12 weeks of absence for maternity. However, they generally don’t receive payment during this time. And, of course, they’re required to return to work full-time once these 12 weeks are over.
These and other systematic disadvantages for working mothers are known by sociologists as the “motherhood penalty.”
The reality in Spain is quite different. Spanish employers, by law, must allow a minimum of 16 weeks of paid maternity leave. This applies not only to birthing mothers, but also to cases of adoption when the child is under 8 years of age.
When this paid maternity leave runs out, woman have the right to reduce their hours at work. In this case, their salary is adjusted accordingly.
What rights do Spanish women have in the work place?
In Spain, female employers have the right to a minimum of full 16 weeks of paid maternity leave. If a woman gives birth to twins, the time period increases to 18 weeks. And in the case of triplets, employers must allow 20 weeks of leave.
In the case of premature birth resulting in hospitalization, the leave time also increases. The mother can also choose to combine her maternity leave with a month of annual vacation time.
For the entire duration of this leave, Spanish mothers receive 100% of their salary. To have access to this right, she must have worked at least 180 days during the last 7 years, or 360 days during her entire working life.
That being said, the minimum work requirement doesn’t apply to women under the age of 21. And women between the ages of 21 and 26 must only have reached 90 days, rather than 180.
The rights of mothers in the Spanish workplace begin during pregnancy. With prior notice and justification, pregnant women can miss work in order to attend prenatal appointments during work hours.
This benefit also applies to birthing classes. Employers must pay their female employers for these hours.
Women also have the option of sharing their maternity leave with their partners. By law, they must take off the first 6 weeks after their child’s birth. However, they can share the other 10 weeks of leave with their partners.
Another detail worth pointing out is that maternity and paternity leaves are the same in cases of adoption. In other words, the leave time for adoptive fathers and mothers in Spain is the same as that for biological parents. The economic benefits are also the same.
Reduction in working hours
As we mentioned above, Spanish employers must grant at least 16 weeks of maternity leave to their female employees. However, for some women, this isn’t enough.
In that case, women have the option of requesting a reduction in hours. This right gives women more time to bond with their new babies and is also beneficial for breastfeeding.
This benefit isn’t only available to new moms. Parents of children under the age of 8 can reduce their work day by half at any moment, if needed.
There is no required time limit for requesting this reduction. However, though not required by Spanish law, it’s always best for parents to communicate this to their employers in writing.
In the past, women had the option of either working less hours per day or working 1 day less per week. However, labor reform no longer allows women this second option.
“A mother’s arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them.”
The specifics of schedule reduction for mothers in Spain
Below is a list of the specific benefits involved in the shortened work day for Spanish moms:
- The mother can choose her schedule and the number of hours she will work. However, her working hours must fall within her habitual schedule. She can reduce her hours by between 1/8 and 1/2 of what she worked prior to maternity leave.
- In any case, the mother can modify this schedule as often as she likes for the duration of her reduction.
- Spanish mothers can go back to working their full schedule as soon as they wish.
- During their schedule reduction, women still recieve the benefits of holidays, vacation and personal time.
- Women who are working a reduced schedule are still protected against unjustified termination. They also have the same rights as anyone else if they quit or are lawfully terminated.
Are you a working mother in the United States? How has your experience differed from that of women in Spain and many other countries around the world?
What changes would you like to see to maternity leave policies in the USA?