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How much maternity, paternity, and parental leave do you get in Italy?

John Last
John Last - [email protected]
How much maternity, paternity, and parental leave do you get in Italy?
A man pushes a pram along Rome's Via dei Fori Imperiali. (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP)

Italy has various measures in place to support new parents, but it's not always clear what you're entitled to. Here's an overview of how it all works.


Expecting a baby is exciting, but before you welcome your little bambino or bambina, best familiarize yourself with Italy’s ever-changing rules on family leave.

Italy has three kinds of family leave — maternity, paternity, and parental — and all work a little differently. In recent years, the rules have also changed with the passing of each new budget.

We've broken it down as simply as possible, beginning with the most common scenarios, and moving on to more unusual exceptions.

Here’s our guide to the leave you're entitled to in Italy.

Maternity leave for employees

Here’s the most common scenario: you work for a company, collecting a wage or salary in the form of regular paycheques. Maybe you have a contract, or are hired on a permanent basis.

The important thing to know is that your family leave benefits are not strictly speaking connected to your employer, but guaranteed by law and funded by the INPS (Italy's National Institute for Social Security), to which your employer pays regular contributions in exchange.

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to raise a child in Italy?

That means your basic rights to paid leave are not conditional on who you work for or how long you have worked there. In Italy, it’s mandatory that all employed pregnant women take five months of paid maternity leave (congedo di maternità in Italian) — it’s actually illegal for an employer to keep you working during this time.

Typically, that leave is divided, with two months taking place before your due date and three months after. But with a note from your doctor and the agreement of your employer, it’s possible to divide this time differently, with all five months after delivery or even more time before if necessary for the health of you and your baby.


During this time, INPS will cover 80 percent of your usual salary, and in many cases, employers will top up the other 20 percent. That means you should receive your full salary in the regular fashion for all five months of your maternity leave.

These benefits apply even if you miscarry, so long as you have been pregnant for at least 180 days. If you lose your baby earlier but have been pregnant for at least three months, you are still entitled to 30 days paid leave — though if you miscarry in the first trimester, you receive no benefits.

You’re only allowed to return to work during mandatory maternity leave if, during your leave, your child is hospitalised and subject to regular care. Any days you haven’t used will be held over for when your child is released from care.

Recently unemployed and contractual workers

These rights extend even to apprentices, agricultural workers, and domestic workers, and apply if you work from home, or even if you’re recently unemployed or suspended from your job.

If your contract ends during your maternity leave, or even 60 days before it begins, you are still entitled to the 80 percent payment — though you may receive it (and may need to apply for it) from INPS directly rather than your employer.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

And if you’re eligible for unemployment or have made contributions to national insurance for 26 weeks in the last two years, you will still be eligible for these benefits six months after your last job ended.


You are also protected from dismissal because of your status as a new or expecting mother. It’s against the law in Italy to fire a woman during her pregnancy and before the child is one year old.

But you also need not keep a bad job to hold your benefits. Pregnant women can still resign their positions and receive paid leave. If you do decide to resign, you may need to validate your resignation with the local labour authority to ensure you weren’t subject to undue pressure.

Paternity leave for employees

Unfortunately, despite a recent push for the recognition of child-raising as a task shared between parents, Italy’s family leave rules are still strictly gendered.

Fathers are entitled to just 10 days of mandatory leave, paid at 100 percent of their salary. These days can be taken before or after the birth, but must be taken during the five-month mandatory maternity leave period.

READ ALSO: How does the cost of childcare in Italy compare to other countries?

Ten days may not sound like a great deal to people from many other countries. This is an improvement on past rules, which until 2012 offered fathers no guaranteed paid leave. It's also a considerable rise from the five days allowed in 2019. But Italy is lagging far behind many European countries when providing leave for partners, especially in non-traditional families.

Fathers may instead claim five months of paid leave if the mother is unable to care for the child — meaning death or incapacitation, the total abandonment of the child, or sole custody being awarded in a court to the father.


Parental leave for employees

In addition to mandatory maternity and paternity leave, Italy also offers optional paid parental leave (congedo parentale). The rules on parental leave are somewhat complex, and have changed a lot in recent years.

As of 2023, parents can be eligible to receive up to 11 continuous months of paid parental leave — but how that time is divided is important.

Both parents are entitled to three months of optional parental leave, and another three months of paid leave can be added by one parent. Though this can be continuous with mandatory leave, it doesn’t need to be taken right after that leave ends — instead, it can be broken up and taken anytime until the child’s 12th birthday. You need only give your employer 15 days notice.

In a rule change that came in under the 2023  budget law, one of these optional months is paid at 80 percent of your salary, just like mandatory maternity leave — though to be eligible, it must be taken within the child’s first six years. The rest of your optional parental leave is paid at just 30 percent.

Additionally, you can take as much as another four months of leave, for a total of 10 months accrued to a single parent. But these additional months will only be paid if your income is less than 2.5 times a minimum level set by the Italian government each year, based on the cost of living.

It’s actually possible to even take an 11th month, though only if the father has used his full three-month allocation of leave beforehand.


It’s important to note that unlike the mandatory leave above, this is conditional on your continued employment. If your contract ends, if you resign or if you are fired, you lose your rights to this paid leave.

On the other hand, you will continue to accrue holidays, severance pay, leave and monthly bonuses as if you were at work (unlike during your maternity or paternity leave).

You apply for parental leave directly with your employer.

Maternity leave if you're self-employed

Self-employed people including freelancers follow slightly different rules.

First of all, self-employed mothers are still entitled to five months of paid maternity benefits — but you need not actually stop working during this period.

Instead of applying to your employer, you apply directly to INPS, which will handle the payment of your benefits.


There is usually no minimum contribution to be eligible, though if you are a freelancer registered with a profession — like a lawyer or accountant — you may want to check with your association, as you may be subject to different rules.

Generally, as a freelancer or self-employed person who manages your own contributions to the national insurance and pension systems, your daily benefit will be calculated by taking your last year’s income, dividing it by 365 days, and multiplying it by 80 percent.

Parental leave if you're self-employed 

The lengthy parental leave described above is a perk of being an employee — but self-employed people can still access some optional leave benefits.

Self-employed mothers who earned less than €8,145 in the year before going on maternity leave receive an additional three months of parental leave once their maternity leave ends, paid at 80 percent.

If you’ve earned more than that, you’re still allowed to take optional leave for three months, and will receive payments equal to 30 percent of your average daily income, so long as you actually stop working. To be eligible, you need only have made a contribution to national insurance in the month before you took your leave.

Both mothers and fathers are eligible for this leave.



Rules for leave are generally the same if you’re adopting a child, with the date of birth being swapped for the date of adoption or guardianship.


Generally, the five months of mandatory maternity leave will come after the adoption — though some can be moved before, or taken in pieces, if required to comply with international adoption requirements. Fathers are also entitled to their 10 days of mandatory paid leave.

Mandatory leave can be more easily transferred between parents, but only in whole, not in part. Parental leave will also follow the same rules.

If you’re a guardian not planning to adopt, you’re only entitled to three months of paid leave over the course of the five months immediately following the beginning of your guardianship.


Italy has offered many different and changing 'baby bonuses' and other types of child benefit over the years. So what's currently available?

In 2022, the government tried to simplify the system by creating the 'assegno unico e universale', a single, universal monthly allowance that increases with each child.

It's means-tested, meaning that to qualify for anything beyond the minimum payment you will need an ISEE rating (a calculation based on your household's income and relative wealth).

The universal allowance payment ranges from a minimum of €50 per month for families with a higher income (those assessed as having an ISEE of over €40,000 per year, or those who don't provide an ISEE), to €175 a month for families on the lowest incomes - those with an ISEE of below €15,000.

READ ALSO: What is an ISEE number in Italy and how do you get it?

Bonuses are paid to families with more than two children (and again to those with more than four), mothers under 21, homes where both parents are working, or those with a disabled child.

You don’t need to wait for the child to be born to claim this credit — it’s payable beginning from the seventh month of pregnancy. Both EU and non-EU nationals can apply, as long as you have lived in Italy for two years or hold an employment contract of at least six months. And any amounts you receive won’t count toward your taxable income.

The benefit is paid every month until the child’s 21st birthday, though you will need to reapply each year. Instructions on claiming the benefit are available on the INPS website.

You can also claim benefits toward nursery costs or specialized at-home care, worth up to €3,000 per year — though these benefits are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis based on a total amount set in the annual budget, so you will need to get your application in early. Generally, the window for applications opens in January or February.

Italy's ever-changing rules mean that no benefit is guaranteed to stick around — so keep an eye out for future budget updates that could affect your family.


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