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Expat Maternity Leave Benefits: Understanding Paid Time Off Policies for Expecting Parents Abroad

Maternity leave is an employee benefit, available in most countries, which allows mothers to take a period of absence from work before and after the birth of their child. This allows the mother to prepare for the birth of their child, take care of their health, and take care of their child.

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Are you an expat living overseas looking to safeguard your pregnancy? Are you looking to make the most out of your maternity leave? Today, we will be going over maternity leave for expat parents living overseas to ensure they can prepare for the birth of their child effectively. 

Understanding Expat Maternity Leave Benefits

Pregnant Woman By Green Plants

Maternity leave is a paid leave from work provided by employers to allow mothers to take a period of absence from work before and after the birth of their child. By taking maternity leave, mothers can then use this opportunity to take care of their health and eventually their child.

The purpose of maternity leave is to give mothers sufficient time to give birth, recover from vaginal tears or c-section scars, and take care of and bond with their child before returning to work once more. During this time, it is legally obligated for the employer to hold the employee’s job. 

The length varies depending on the employer. Certain employers may also provide additional maternity benefits to employees in the form of additional payments or maternity leave extensions. 

Who is Entitled to Maternity Leave?

In many countries, all biological mothers as well as adoptive or foster mothers are entitled to maternity leave. However, there are certain prerequisites which employees must meet to qualify for statutory maternity leave, such as:

  • The employee’s length of continuous service to their employer.
  • The employee’s contribution to state funds, such as national insurance.
  • The number of employees in the company.

Some employers may also require notice periods and proof of pregnancy. 

On the other hand, instead of maternity leave, fathers and secondary guardians may be entitled to paternity or parental leave. The length of parental or paternity leave once again varies between employers but is generally shorter than maternity leave. 

For example, in the UK, parents can share paternal leave. This allows each parent to take some time off work to take care of their child, and paternal leave can also be used to look after older children up to the age of 18 in some cases. 

Maternity Pay During Maternity Leave 

In most countries, employees will receive some form of maternity pay or allowance during their time off. Determined by local regulations, either the employer, the state (via social security), or a combination of both, will pay the employee for their maternity leave.

For instance, employers pay their employees directly for maternity leave in Nigeria. On the other hand, maternity is paid by social security in France, Norway, and Spain. 

Meanwhile, the UK combines public funds and employer liability for maternity pay. Employers pay Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) to the employees during the payroll period, but employees can reclaim 92% of the SMP from the UK’s tax authority, the HMRC (His Majesty’s Revenue & Customs).

Maternity pay calculation varies from employer to employer and is usually a percentage of the employee’s previous salary or a predefined recurring lump sum. 

For example, in the UK, employees will need to check their length of service and whether or not they’ve earned enough in the eight weeks (or two months) before their qualifying week when they’re eligible for maternity leave. 

When Should I Take Maternity Leave?

Couple's Hands Around Pregnant Belly

Some women start taking maternity leave at least a week to a month in advance due to symptoms of pregnancy discomfort, convenience, or needing extra time to prepare for eventual childbirth. On the other hand, other women wait until the last moment to maximize time with their baby upon arrival.

When you choose to start taking your maternity leave will depend on your convenience, if you start experiencing discomfort from the pregnancy, or if you need extra time to prepare for childbirth. 

In the US, the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993) states that employees must provide their employers with a 30-day notice stating their intention to take unpaid family leave.

Writing a Maternity Leave Letter

While some employers don’t necessarily require written notice for employees to take maternity leave, writing a maternity leave letter is generally considered a more professional method of communicating with your employer and stating your intention to take maternity leave. 

Below are what you should include in your maternity leave letter:

  • You are either pregnant or intending to adopt a child.
  • The due date of your child.
  • The date you wish to start your maternity leave.
  • The date you intend to return to work once more. 
  • Work proposal stating the work you will complete before you take your maternity leave, as well as the work that needs to be completed during your leave. 
  • The level of communication that you expect from your employee during your time off.
  • (If needed) Medical letter.

As requirements for maternity leave request letters vary from employer to employer and country to country, make sure to check local regulations carefully and ask your employer if you have any questions. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How long is maternity leave in Thailand?

In Thailand, the maximum number of days allowed for mothers to take maternity leave is 98 days. This includes the time taken for prenatal care, and the mother can receive up to 45 days of equal pay throughout their leave. 

Which country’s maternity leave is best-paid?

Estonia is the country with the best-paid maternity leave, both in the way of time off and the amount of the employee’s salary. Other countries with excellent maternity leave compensation include Greece, Slovakia, Japan, and Luxembourg.

How long is maternity leave in Australia?

In Australia, you are entitled to 12 months of maternity leave with the option to negotiate for another full year if needed. 


With maternity leave, whichever country you’re living in as an expat, you can take that time to take care of not only yourself and recover from childbirth, but also your child. The length of maternity leave, leave request letter requirements, and maternity pay will vary depending on employers.

If you have any questions or concerns, remember it’s perfectly okay to ask for help from your employers. For employers, by actively listening and communicating with your employees, you ensure your employees’ voices are heard.

Being a leading international health insurance broker, Pacific Prime has over 20 years of experience in matching both locals and expats to health insurance plans that match both their budget and specific healthcare needs.

Whether you’re seeking maternity insurance as an expat living overseas or as a local citizen yourself, we are more than happy to help you. And if you have any further questions, please feel free to get in touch with us.

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Senior Content Creator at Pacific Prime
Serena Fung is a Senior Content Creator at Pacific Prime, a global insurance brokerage and employee specialist serving over 1.5 million clients in 15 offices across the world. With 2+ years of experience writing about the subject, she aims to demystify the world of insurance for readers with the latest updates, guides and articles on the blog.

Serena earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of British Columbia, Canada. As such, she is an avid advocate of mental health and is fascinated by all things psychology (especially if it’s cognitive psychology!).

Her previous work experience includes teaching toddlers to read, writing for a travel/wellness online magazine, and then a business news blog. These combined experiences give her the skills and insights she needs to explain complex ideas in a succinct way. Being the daughter of an immigrant and a traveler herself, she is passionate about educating expats and digital nomads on travel and international health insurance.
Serena Fung