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Hungary’s rebirth as one of Central Europe’s most progressive maternity leave states


Budapest, Hungary – Life is full of many important milestones, including leaving home, getting married and having children. Speaking of starting a family, your country of residence goes a long way in determining the leave and social benefits you and your spouse will receive. After years where eligibility favoured those on higher incomes, Hungary’s maternity leave legislation is turning into one of the most inclusive in Central Europe.

So, what’s new? As of January 1, 2020, maternity leave has been extended to parents who provide care for a child under a court decision, or a resolution issued by the guardian due to the mother’s health condition or death.

There have also been legislative changes concerning adoption. From January 1, 2020, employees are entitled to unpaid leave for the purpose of caring for an adopted child for a period of three years from the initial time when the child was placed in the employee’s care. 

If the child is older than 3 years old at the time of adoption, employees are entitled to unpaid leave for six months.

Other changes in policy since April 2016 include government incentives for businesses with in-house nurseries. Elsewhere, the Hungarian government also undertook a commitment to increase nursery allocations from 46,000 to 60,000 by the year 2020.

Currently, maternity leave in Hungary is compensated at a rate of 70% of the mother’s normal salary. The leave, which is 24 weeks in total, must start a month prior to the scheduled delivery date. However, mothers in Hungary have the option of taking up to three years of leave while still receiving maternity benefits.

For the first six months of leave, mothers are entitled to the Pregnancy and Confinement Benefit (CSED) at a rate of 70% of their normal salary. Then, for the next year and a half, until the child’s second birthday, mothers are entitled to a Child Care Fee (Gyermekgondozási díj – GYED) benefit at a rate of 70% of their salary up to a maximum of double the minimum wage. The father, on the other hand, is entitled to 5 days of paid paternity leave to be taken within two months of birth.

After the maternity leave period, one parent can take parental leave until the child reaches the age of 2 years old. Parental leave is paid at 70% but is capped at double the minimum daily wage.

In addition to maternity leave, employees may take additional unpaid leave for the purpose of taking care of their children until they reach the age of three. However, there is a benefit called Child Home Care Allowance (Gyermekgondozási segély – GYES) that is also available for parents or grandparents taking care of the child during the same period. The benefit is paid by the National Health Insurance Fund of Hungary (NEAK).

Elsewhere in Central Europe, Slovakia and the Czech Republic lead the way with 34 and 28 weeks of paid maternity leave respectively. While mothers receive 75% of their salary in Slovakia, in Czech Republic, it’s 70%. In Poland, however, mothers get only 20 weeks of paid maternity leave but at 100% of their normal salary.

Hungary may still have some distance to cover before matching the likes of other European countries in terms of maternity leave. The good news is that the tide is turning. Hungary and its Central European neighbours are gradually making conditions much more favourable for working mothers across the continent and that can only be encouraging.

Coordinated by Ábel Bede, Kafkadesk's Budapest office is made up of a growing team of freelance journalists, editors and fact-checkers passionate about Hungarian affairs and dedicated to bringing you all the latest news, events and insights from Hungary.