Cultural Musings

What does maternity leave in Poland look like?

Maternity leave in Poland is a beautiful thing that they do very well and America is really lacking. I had a baby last year, so I enjoyed the one year of receiving maternity benefits (mine just ended… *tear*). It’s a beautiful thing for women to have the comfort of staying home with their babies to care for and nurture them for the first 6 months – 1 year of life, especially if they’re breastfeeding. I can’t tell you how fortunate I felt to spend 4 months at home with my son and then return to work part-time as the maternity leave pay gave me the freedom to do so. I know that living in the States, it would have been more of a struggle and I’d have had to return to work earlier. Having a baby in Poland? Read on to find out what Poland has to offer your in your first year of maternity.

How it looks in America

Maternity leave benefits are something that Poland does much better America, giving mothers the opportunity to really enjoy their first year of maternity without having to worry as much about making a living. The way it works in America is that your employer has to give you 2 weeks unpaid leave. Yikes. So then, what, you have to go back to work or just suffer? Some companies are more generous and provide 10 weeks of paid leave or maybe 20 if you work for Facebook or Google or some other modern corporation. But the average mother doesn’t have anything close to that.

How it looks in Poland

Compare that to Poland where women with full-time work contracts can take a year of maternity leave and receive 80% of their salary or 6 months at 100%. So I’m a business owner and that means things are little different for me. It’s a little more complicated in that case. Essentially, I also receive a year off, and of course I can also work at the same time, but I obviously don’t receive benefits which are close to my actual salary. It’s calculated based on the average of your ZUS (Polish social security) payments for the 12 months prior to having the baby.

The idea is pretty simple – the more you pay, the higher your benefits will be for the next 12 months, so it’s common for women business owners to pay more than the minimum so that they can increase their monthly leave benefits. Currently, the maximum you can pay is around 4000 zł per month and I believe the max you can receive is around 7000 zł (not totally sure about that because they won’t really tell you), if you can afford to pay that 4000 zł for 12 months. Even if not, it’s worth putting what you can toward it as it will at least increase the amount a little bit. It’s definitely worth the investment as far as I can see.

Who can receive maternity benefits?

Not only that, if you’re unemployed, work on umowa o dzieło or zlecenie (so contract work or part-time work, or are a student, then you can also receive 1000 zł per month for your maternity leave for one year. That means even if you don’t pay ZUS (social security), you can receive benefits – a great thing for moms who don’t work or don’t earn much.

What an incredible thing right? As a person who doesn’t really believe in many social benefits, this is one that I think makes a real difference in people’s lives. Imagine the difference it makes if you can return to work after 1 year instead of a couple weeks. It’s  lovely that moms in Poland can take this time to be with their babies. I’m so grateful I had that opportunity. Go Poland!

Have you or someone you know enjoyed the benefits of maternity leave? I’m sure it’s even better in some country, but comparing it to America, Poland’s benefits are very impressive! America needs to step it up! What do you think?

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  • Reply Malwina 28 June 2018 at 21:26

    Ohh moms im America are in very bad situation… i cant even imagine it.. and also we have unpaid “wychowawczy/rodzicielski” so You can be with your baby for about 3 years if i remember it well is special time for mother and baby and wow we are so lucky i didnt even know that You have to start working so quickly..

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 29 June 2018 at 15:28

      Yeah that’s true! I forgot about that. I should add it to the article. That’s pretty amazing as well !

  • Reply Łucja 28 June 2018 at 21:41

    Not that it makes it much better, but with the FMLA law in America, women now can get 12 weeks of unpaid leave, given that their employer hires a certain number of people and that they’ve been with the company for at least a year. A lot of companies offer a short-term disability benefit, that a woman can qualify for after giving birth, and that’s usually about 60% pay for 6 weeks. It all depends on the company though.. Not great, but it’s *something*. That being said, my heart hurts knowing that I left these amazing benefits in Poland to live in America ? There’s so many benefits of living here, unfortunately maternity leave is not one of them… I hope it changes one day!

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 29 June 2018 at 15:27

      Hi Łucja – thanks for your insight here. I was unaware! That’s really great that something like this exists now. I’m really pleased to hear that they’ve made some progress in this area. Anything is better than nothing. It must be hard for you to have left those benefits behind – no amount of money can replace a year spent at home with your baby, right? But I mean there are many other good benefits to living in the States 🙂 Where are you located?

      • Reply Łucja 6 July 2018 at 11:46

        Hi Leah! I’m on the east coast – in Philly:)

  • Reply J 28 June 2018 at 23:49

    Simple question that I suspect you won’t answer –

    In your ideal world of the U.S. having the same maternity benefits as Poland, would you extend those benefits illegal immigrants or even recent legal immigrants?

    There is little support for a European-style welfare state in the U.S. because of the massive number of non-Americans (in the legal and/or cultural sense) that would be eligible. This is the reality of heterogeneous populations.

    You can have a generous welfare state or de facto open borders, not both. When you try to have both, willingness to pay high taxes for new arrivals greatly diminishes and that’s where the trouble starts. Just ask Sweden, the UK, Germany, etc.

    Poland’s government set up this plan to promote an increase in the birth rate of Poles. It finds broad support because Poland’s homogeneous population is comfortable with their tax money going to their own people, their (very) extended family, in a sense. Half of the resources of a program with similarly generous terms in the U.S. would go to promoting the birth rate of Mexicans, El Salvadorans, Hondurans, etc.

    Good luck selling that to voters. Then again, the way things are going, a different electorate will likely have different priorities in, say, fifty years or so.

    By the way, the program in Poland is also a standard vote-harvesting tool of European governments, one that is working quite well in the case of PiS. Nothing like giving the voters candy bought with money taken from them in the first place…

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 29 June 2018 at 15:24

      Why wouldn’t I answer? I don’t think I ever said I wanted the U.S. to have the SAME benefits as Poland but rather just something in the way of maternity leave for women. Many have basically none and I don’t think that’s acceptable. Given what Łucja said above, there is at least something nowadays – about 12-16 weeks possible – so that’s nice. And no I don’t think illegals should receive any benefits. Why should they? They don’t pay taxes so why should they benefit from social security programs? As I said, I generally don’t believe much in welfare but I do agree with offering new mothers something in the way of maternity leave.

      • Reply J 30 June 2018 at 19:16

        Did you notice that after writing “Why wouldn’t I answer?”, that you didn’t answer the question?

  • Reply Wiktoria 29 June 2018 at 01:07

    I live in England and I’m entitled to £145 a week for 39 weeks. It’s called maternity allowance.
    To get it you need to be employed/self employed/agency worker and earned certain amount of money in “test period”.
    It’s not a lot of money for life in UK, but better than nothing. Also all doctor appointments, scans (except 3D/4D), tests are free so I can’t complain 🙂

  • Reply Leah Morawiec 29 June 2018 at 15:25

    Wiktoria – you know anything is better than nothing. It’s nice that the tests are free – through the NHS, I suppose? I’d say it’s pretty decent pay. But is that for everyone, no matter what they do? What about unemployed people?

  • Reply Kim Lang 20 July 2018 at 05:29

    Its seems Poland is a great country which is taking care of mothers this way 🙂

  • Reply Marcy 8 February 2019 at 21:14

    I just started work at the start of January this year. I am 8 months pregnant now. Which means that I only contributed one month ao far to ZUS. Do I have any benefit when I do go off on leave?

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 11 February 2019 at 10:33

      Yeah yeah take the average of your payments so it’ll be around the amount you paid that one time. But you have to check with them to be sure.

  • Reply Shraddha 9 April 2019 at 10:31

    Hi , I am 3 months pregnant now and I am not polish citizen. I am working here with full time standard contract and will be getting maternity allowance if I plan to deliver my baby here in Poland . I just want to know , should I eligible for maternity allowance if I deliver baby at my home country ?

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 6 May 2019 at 11:54

      Hm that’s a great question. I imagine so if your job is located here. I don’t see why not 🙂 Congratulations!

  • Reply Jen 11 April 2019 at 01:19

    Just got a job offer in Poland, but the contract says 90 days of maternity leave after 2 years of service. It doesn’t sound like this fits with the regulation. It’s a two year contract, renewable. Any ideas?

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 6 May 2019 at 11:53

      Sounds like they’re ripping you off. The law in Poland is 1 year if you pay ZUS. What kind of contract is it exactly? Do you know the name?

  • Reply Maria Tran 27 April 2020 at 09:51

    This writing is very useful for women who are deciding on having a baby. The maternity benefits for women is different in every country. So, I think that people should find out carefully to protect their rights.

  • Reply maureeen 28 October 2020 at 19:41

    Great article- Just an observation: America is the whole continent. I guess you are referring to United States. Fortunately, some other countries in the continent like Costa Rica have superior maternity benefits than those offered by the USA.

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