Maternity and parental leave

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Maternity leave – only for mothers employed on a work contract

Maternity leave is a paid break in professional activity after the birth of a child, guaranteed by Polish law for women employed on the basis of an employment contract. It lasts 20 weeks. The first 14 weeks are mandatory for the mother, after which she can return to work. The father takes care of the child for the remaining 6 weeks, gaining the right to the rest of the maternity leave.

Women working under different contracts (commission, task) or running their own business do not have the right to maternity leave but can receive maternity benefits.

Maternity leave vs. maternity benefit

Maternity benefit is paid to people on maternity and parental leave. The amount is based on the average salary for the last 12 months. For the first 6 weeks of maternity leave, the benefit is 100% of the salary, and then it decreases to 60%. During parental leave, the benefit amount is 70% of the average salary. You can also apply for a fixed benefit amount (81.5%) within 21 days after the child’s birth. However, the condition is that you immediately decide to take both leaves in full (52 weeks). If the mother gives up part of the maternity leave in favor of the father, the benefit will be paid to him.

When does maternity leave start and how long does it last?

Maternity leave usually begins on the day of the child’s birth and lasts 20 weeks. Part of the leave (max. 6 weeks) can be used at the end of pregnancy based on the delivery date. After the mandatory period, the father can use the remaining paternal leave (max. 6 weeks).

The duration of the leave depends on the number of children born during one birth – for 1 child it will be 20 weeks, for 2 – 31 weeks.

Maternity leave for the father

After the mandatory period of maternity leave for the mother, its remaining part can be used by the child’s father, provided he is also employed on the basis of an employment contract. This leave is called paternal leave. It starts immediately after the mother’s leave ends and lasts a maximum of 6 weeks. The exact length of paternal leave is calculated by subtracting the period used by the child’s mother from the 20 weeks of leave, which is no less than 14 full weeks.

Dividing maternity leave between parents is especially beneficial in situations when:

  • The mother needs to return to work quickly;
  • The father wants to spend more time with the child;
  • Financial considerations dictate.

Parental leave – continuation of maternity leave

Parental leave is not mandatory and lasts 41 weeks after the birth of a single child. Each parent has the right to use 9 weeks, which cannot be transferred to the other parent. This leave can be used all at once or in a maximum of 5 parts until the child reaches 6 years of age (specifically, by the end of the calendar year in which the child turns 6).

Maternity, paternal, parental leave – formalities

Relevant applications and documents should usually be submitted in the early weeks of the child’s life (the first ones within 21 days of birth).

The first step is to register the child’s birth at the Civil Registry Office – this can be done in person or online. The obtained copy of the birth certificate will be needed for later formalities.

What documents are needed for maternity, paternal, and parental leave?

As a rule, an application for maternity leave is not required, although sometimes employers have different operating rules. To start maternity leave, it is enough for the child to be born and for the employer to receive a shortened copy of the baby’s birth certificate.

The birth certificate of the child should also be presented to the father’s employer. If the child’s father wants to take over the unused part of the maternity leave by the mother, he should submit an appropriate application to his employer no later than 14 days before the planned start of leave. Meanwhile, the mother must notify her employer of her return to work at least 7 days in advance.

Each parent who wishes to take parental leave (once or in parts) should submit an appropriate application to their employer. This must be done no later than 21 days before the planned start of leave. If parental leave is used in parts, such an application must be submitted each time before the mother or father uses the next part.

Special leave due to the birth of a child

Special leave due to the birth of a child can be received by a father employed on the basis of an employment contract. He is entitled to 2 days, it’s fully paid and granted upon the employee’s request made directly to the employer.

Father’s leave – 14 days with the father

Father’s leave is 14 days, guaranteed by law and paid leave, which the father can use within 12 months of the child’s birth. It can be used during the mother’s maternity, parental, or educational leave. It can also be divided into 2 parts of 7 days each.

Documents necessary for receiving special leave and father’s leave

An application for father’s leave should be submitted to the employer at least 7 days before its commencement. The regulations do not specify any form for this, but the most important thing is that the application contains the exact dates when the leave is to be taken and that the father is attached to a shortened copy of the child’s birth certificate.

Extended parental leave (urlop wychowawczy)

Extended parental leave (urlop wychowaczy) is optional, lasts for 36 months, and can be used until the child turns 6 years old. Each parent is entitled to 1 month, which cannot be transferred to the other parent.

In principle, parental leave is unpaid. An exception is when those availing it receive a family allowance. For two years of parental leave, such a family receives an additional parental allowance of PLN 400 per month. Both benefits together amount to just under PLN 500, but stringent income criteria must be met to receive them.

Extended parental leave (urlop wychowawczy) – formalities

A request for parental leave must be submitted at least 21 days before its commencement. The application should be accompanied by a short copy of the child’s birth certificate and a declaration from the other parent regarding their use of parental leave. The employer cannot refuse to grant this leave.

Can a woman on maternity leave be dismissed?

During maternity leave, you are under special protection. During this period, the employer cannot terminate or give notice to an employee (unless there is a disciplinary dismissal). The exception is employees on a probationary period lasting up to a month.

If the fixed-term employment contract (or probationary period) ends while the woman is in her third month of pregnancy, the contract is automatically extended until the day of childbirth. However, this does not apply to replacement employment contracts. The employer can only terminate the contract during maternity leave in the event of bankruptcy or liquidation of the employer. In such a situation, the contract termination date must be agreed upon with the trade union representing the employees.

If it is impossible to provide alternative employment during this time, the employee is entitled to benefits in accordance with separate regulations, such as receiving the maternity allowance. The period of receiving these benefits is counted towards the employment period.

After finishing maternity leave, you return to your previous position. If that’s not possible, you should return to an equivalent position or another that matches your professional qualifications. The salary in such a situation is equal to what the employee would have received if they had not taken maternity leave.

Can you work during maternity leave?

For many, going on maternity and parental leave means a significant reduction in the household budget. Therefore, the legislator allows the possibility of taking up paid employment during parental leave. There are no clear guidelines regarding working during maternity leave. However, it’s essential to know a few rules that allow employment during this time.

  • A person on maternity leave cannot take up employment with the employer where they applied for this leave. This is possible during parental leave.
  • During maternity leave, you can enter into an employment contract, even full-time, without risking losing the maternity leave benefit from another employer.
  • An employee can enter into a civil contract immediately after giving birth, both with their employer and any other entity. This will not affect the amount of the maternity leave benefit.
  • During maternity leave, a woman can start her own business. There’s no risk of losing or reducing the benefit in this case. The woman must pay mandatory contributions and the tax resulting from the activity. She can close or suspend the business after maternity leave and return to regular employment or combine it with self-employment.

Special situations related to granting maternity leave

The Labor Code also regulates special situations, such as when the mother or child is hospitalized, the child or mother dies, etc. In these cases, the child’s father, another family member, or the insured father can avail of some of the maternity leave or maternity allowance.

If the child is hospitalized and the mother has taken 8 weeks of maternity leave, she can interrupt this leave and use the remaining part after the child leaves the hospital. In the event of the mother’s hospitalization, she can also interrupt maternity leave during the hospital stay after using the first 8 weeks of leave post-childbirth. The condition is that the child’s father or another family member uses part of the maternity leave during this time.

In the event of the child’s death within 8 weeks of life, the mother is entitled to maternity leave for 8 weeks post-birth, but no less than 7 days from the child’s death date. If the child dies after 8 weeks of life, the mother retains the right to 7 days of maternity leave from the day of the child’s death.

If the mother dies during her maternity leave, the child’s father or another insured family member can use part of the maternity leave after the mother’s death date. If an uninsured mother dies, the child’s father or another family member can use the remaining part of the maternity leave until the end of this leave period by applying to the employer. The employer must consider this application.

Legal basis

  • Act of June 26, 1974 – Labor Code (Journal of Laws from 2020, item 1320, as amended);
  • Regulation of the Minister of Family, Labor, and Social Policy of December 8, 2015, on applications related to employees’ parental rights and documents attached to such applications (Journal of Laws from 2015, item 2243);
  • Act of June 25, 1999, on cash benefits from social insurance in the event of sickness and maternity (Journal of Laws from 2021, item 1133).
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