international employment law firm alliance L&E Global
Czech Republic

Czech Republic: Is Maternity Leave Optional?

Author: Klára Sleglova

In light of the evolving family dynamics, questions surrounding the duration of maternity leave are surfacing. While the Czech Labour Code stipulates specific entitlements for expecting mothers, including maternity leave, an increasing number of employees are seeking alternative arrangements.

Pursuant to the Labour Code, women employees are entitled to 28 weeks of maternity leave in relation to the birth and care of a newborn child. If the mother gives birth to more children at the same time, she is entitled to 37 weeks of maternity leave.

Generally, maternity leave commences six weeks before the anticipated due date. However, flexibility is afforded, allowing it to commence any time after the eighth week preceding childbirth. The Labour Code further states that maternity leave may not be shorter than 14 weeks and may not end or be interrupted before the lapse of 6 weeks from the date of birth. And here is where it gets complicated.

A growing number of women wish to return to work before the statutory 14-week period elapses. Moreover, contemporary parenting roles increasingly involve active participation from fathers in childcare, prompting a discussion of reassessment of the necessity for such a prolonged absence from work.

However, while adherence to the prescribed minimum duration of maternity leave remains obligatory for both the employee and the employer should the employee decide to opt for this leave, it is disputable whether women are obliged to take the leave at all. Instead, some women take only paid annual leave, sick days, or unpaid leave. The length of this leave depends on the agreement with the employer. In this scenario, the employee is not entitled to the state maternity benefit, which amounts to approximately 70% of her gross salary.

But experts remain divided on the question of avoiding maternity leave. There is no relevant case law or decision of the Labour Inspectorate, as this authority does not usually even learn about the employee’s birth. Proponents of a teleological interpretation of the Labour Code advocate for mandatory maternity leave. Conversely, opponents contend that the absence of an explicit order to take maternity leave renders it optional. They argue that women who wish to return to work cannot be barred from working, in accordance with the Constitution, if their health condition allows it.

Key Action Points for Human Resources and In-House Counsel

  • Czech Labour Code grants women 28-37 weeks of maternity leave.
  • The minimum duration of maternity leave is 14 weeks.
  • Legal experts cannot agree whether maternity leave is mandatory.