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EU paternity leave:
Changes to be aware of in 2021

The uptake, time allocated, and benefits offered, vary greatly amongst countries in Europe when it comes to paternity leave. To help enhance gender equality and reduce barriers to parenthood, the EU has announced that all member states must offer a minimum of 10 days of paid paternity leave by 2021. For some countries, this is a significant stretch on the previous lack of laws regarding their paternity leave. But for others, this and more has been the norm for several years. It’s important for HR leaders to be aware of the changing laws surrounding paternity leave. Especially during a time when the EU is pushing for improvements to be made. We’ve summed up some key changes to be aware of, for EU paternity leave from five different countries.
Mark Baggs

Mark Baggs
Head of Global Expansion


From the beginning of 2021, in Switzerland fathers can get 10 days of paid paternity leave, under legislation amending the Loss of Earnings Compensation Act. Paternity leave can be taken in a single period or as individual days, but leave must be taken within six months after the baby’s birth.

The father must be employed or self-employed at the time of birth, covered by old age and survivor’s insurance scheme during the previous nine months, and be employed for at least five months of that period. Paternity leave was previously approved by parliament in 2019, but faced opposition from critics after the law was put to voters in a special referendum. But when brought up again in late 2020, around 60% of voters were in favour of the measure.


Paternity leave in Ireland enables new fathers to get two weeks off work, from either employment or self-employment. This time can begin any time in the first 6 months after the birth or placement in the case of an adoption. This incorporates both part-time and casual workers and is not affected by how long employees have been working for the employer or how many hours worked in a week.  

The period of two weeks paternity leave is the same even if more than one child is born or adopted at the same time, such as twins. The employer does not have to pay individuals during paternity leave. However, under some pay brackets, there is potential qualification for Paternity Benefit.

From April 2021, after announcements in the 2021 Budget, paternity leave looks set to increase to cover five weeks. Parent’s Benefit will also increase to five weeks (for those who qualify). Parental leave will also be available to take during the first two years of the child’s life, or two years from adoption.


Paternity leave in Spain saw an increase this year because of RD-Law 6/2019 of Urgent Measures, which guarantees equal treatment and opportunity between men and women in employment. From the start of 2020, male employees were entitled to 12 weeks of paternity leave. In 2021, paternity leave increased to 16 weeks making it equal to what the mother currently receives. A continuous period of four weeks of paternity leave is mandatory immediately after childbirth for both mother and father. After this period, it is the father’s choice to take a further 8 weeks continuously or interruptedly. Though this has to be done during the child’s first year.

In the case of adoption, each adoptive or foster parent is entitled to six weeks of mandatory uninterrupted leave which they should take during the first 12 months after the child arrives home.  This leave can be extended voluntarily for a period of up to 16 weeks for each adoptive parent. Plus, a parent can give up to six weeks of their leave, to the other.


In December 2020, the French Parliament approved legislation to double paternity leave. This takes it from 14 to 28 days, seven of which are mandatory. Three of these will be paid by the employer, and 25 by the French social security administration. In case of multiple births, for example, twins, the social security administration will pay for up to 32 days of paternity leave. This brings the total possible paternity leave days to 35. Seven days is the legal requirement for paternity leave following the birth of a child. Any leave following this time period is optional. This new legislation also applies to adoptive fathers.

This reform of the paternity leave was developed following a conclusion found by a commission of experts that President Emmanuel Macron launched in September 2019. This examined the first 1,000 days of childhood, with the aim to improve the conditions of this foundational period of childhood. A recommendation that followed the report was to ‘increase paternity leave to foster a more harmonious and secure attachment between father and child and to help support the mother.’


Until 31st December 2020, paternity leave in Belgium provided only 10 days, which could be taken in the 4 months after the birth of the child. From January 2021, the birth leave has been extended to 15 days. The plan is to take this to 20 days as of 1st January 2023. These days will still need to be taken over the four-month period immediately following the birth of a child. The cost to the employers does not increase and the worker still receives his wages for the first three days. Following this, he gains an allowance of 82% of his (capped) wage.

This extended paternity leave applies to the private and public sector, covering both contractual workers and civil servants. 

It’s important to stay ahead of EU paternity leave changes

Wherever your team is based, it is important to keep track of the changes and be prepared to implement these where necessary. Gibson Watts Global can help you manage your workforce. While our team of experts ensure your policies reflect the latest regulatory frameworks, you can focus on growing your business. Contact a member of our global expansion team to start your journey, today.

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