Family leave

The purpose of family leave is to help employees reconcile family life and work.

Under the Employment Contracts Act, employees are entitled to take leave from work for the period in which they receive a maternity, special maternity, paternity or parental allowance. The purpose of family leave is almost always to care for the employee’s own child. However, family leave is also allowed for compelling family reasons, which means that the immediate presence of the employee is necessary because of an unforeseeable event suffered by their family.

Family leave may be taken by parents who live in the same household as the child. A parent of a child who does not live in the same household as the child is entitled to temporary child-care leave.

‘Family leave’ is a blanket term used when an employee:

  • takes maternity, special maternity, paternity or parental leave,
  • takes child-care leave,
  • takes part-time child-care leave,
  • takes temporary child-care leave,
  • is absent from work for compelling family reasons, or
  • is absent from work to take care of a family member or someone close to the employee.

Employees are entitled by law to family leave but must also notify their employer as specified in the Act. However, the employer may refuse partial child-care leave in certain cases.

Earnings and benefits during family leave

Under the Employment Contracts Act, the employer is not required to pay wages for the duration of family leave. However, many collective agreements specify that wages must continue to be paid during maternity leave and short-term absences due to a child falling ill (temporary child-care leave).

As the child is born and grows up, the parents are entitled to various benefits paid by Kela. An employer who pays employees on leave wages and holiday pay or holiday compensation may apply to Kela for compensation. Further information is available on the Kela website

Deadline for notification of leave

The employee shall notify the employer of maternity, paternity or parental leave or child-care leave at least two months before the intended start of the leave.

Special cases for notification of leave:

  • If the duration of the leave is no more than 12 weekdays, the period of notification is one month.
  • When giving notification of leave to care for an adopted child, the two-month notification period must be observed whenever possible.
  • If it is not possible to observe the two-month notification period because of the spouse starting employment, the employee shall be entitled to take parental leave one month from the date of the notification, unless this would result in a serious inconvenience to operations of the employer. In the latter case, the employer must inform the employee of the grounds for refusal.

Unless otherwise agreed by the employer and employee, family leave may not be interrupted or its time changed except for a justifiable reason. This usually requires a significant change in the arrangements of caring for the child.

Points to note regarding changing the time of leave:

  • For a justified reason, the employee has the right to change the time and duration of the leave by notifying the employer no later than one month before the change takes effect.
  • The employee is entitled to take maternity leave earlier than intended and to change the time of paternity leave intended to be taken in connection with childbirth if this is necessary because of the birth of the child or because of the state of health of the child, the mother or the father. In such a case, the employer must be notified of the change as soon as possible.
  • The parent of an adopted child has the right to change the term of the leave before the leave starts for a justified reason by notifying the employer as soon as possible.

Return to work after family leave

After family leave, the employee is principally entitled to return to his/her former job. If that is not possible, the employee must be offered equivalent work in accordance with their employment contract; and if that is not possible either, other work in accordance with their employment contract.

Accrual of annual holiday

An employee accrues annual holiday during maternity leave, special maternity leave, paternity and parental leave, temporary child-care leave and absence for compelling family reasons. The time equivalent of days at work accruing annual holiday is at the most 156 working days, i.e. approximately 6 months. The time equivalent of days at work is considered per one childbirth or adoption and not per holiday credit year.

A mother of an adopted child is not entitled to maternity leave but to a parental leave of at least 200 working days. The time equivalent of days at work for a mother of an adopted child on parental leave is 156 working days.

An employee on child-care leave does not accrue annual holiday. However, the employment relationship is not interrupted by a child-leave and therefore, the child-leave is considered when determining the duration of the employment relationship. Consequently, a child-leave during the holiday credit year does not reduce holiday time accumulated during time equivalent of months at work. When the employment relationship has continued more than a year, the employee is entitled to two and a half weekdays of holiday for each full holiday credit month.