Right to parental leave
Parental leave is a leave of absence from paid employment acquired at the birth of a child, primary adoption of a child under eight years of age or the permanent foster care of a child under eight years of age. A right to maternity/paternity leave is also acquired due to miscarriage after 18 weeks of pregnancy and stillbirth after 22 weeks of pregnancy.
Duration and division of entitlement:
- The duration of a maternity/paternity leave is determined by the year of birth, primary adoption or permanent foster care.
- The duration is 12 months in total. Each parent is entitled to 6 months and 6 weeks are transferable.
The start date of maternity/paternity leave and when an entitlement expires:
- Both parents can begin taking maternity/paternity leave up to one month before the expected date of birth or later. The mother shall however be on maternity leave the first two weeks after birth of a child. Entitlement to a maternity/paternity leave expires when the child is 24 months old.
- In the case of a primary adoption or permanent foster care, both parents can start maternity/paternity leave when a child enters the home. If there is a trial period before the primary adoption or permanent foster care of a child, or if the child is adopted from abroad, it is permitted to start the maternity/paternity leave before that time providing that The Child Welfare Committee or the relevant authorities have given confirmation. Entitlement to maternity/paternity leave expires 24 months after the child enters the home.
Extension and transfer of independent right to maternity/paternity leave
- A single mother who has undergone artificial insemination or a single parent who has primarily adopted a child or taken a child into permanent foster care, is entitled to maternity/paternity leave for 12 months in the year 2021, 10 months in the year 2020, but only to 9 months in the year 2019. The same applies to a surviving parent if the other parent dies during pregnancy and the child is born alive.
- Necessary documents to be submitted: Confirmation that a parent has undergone artificial insemination, adopted a child or taken a child into permanent foster care.
- If one parent dies before the child is 24 months old, the parent’s unused entitlement is transferred to the surviving parent and becomes part of the entitlement earned by the surviving parent. In the case of a primary adoption or a permanent foster care the limit is 24 months after the child enters the home.
- If a parent is unable to take care of their child due to illness or the consequences of an accident during the first 24 months after birth, they are permitted to transfer their unused entitlement to maternity/paternity leave to the other parent. In the case of a primary adoption or a permanent foster care the limit is 24 months after the child enters the home. The parent’s condition shall be confirmed with a medical certificate from the specialist doctor who takes care of the parent, and also when the parents’ condition prevents them from giving their approval for the transfer of entitlement.
- Necessary documents to be submitted: A certificate from a specialist doctor and a confirmation of the parent’s will to transfer their entitlement.
- If a parent are unable to take care of their child on account of imprisonment the first 24 months after birth, they are permitted to transfer their unused entitlement to a maternity/paternity leave to the other parent. In the case of a primary adoption or a permanent foster care the limit is 24 months after the child enters the home. The prison authorities shall confirm that the parent will be serving a sentence during the aforementioned period.
- Necessary documents to be submitted: Confirmation from the prison authorities.
The following only applies to the birth of a child, primary adoption or permanent foster care of a child from January 1st 2021.
- A parent who has given birth to a child earns an entitlement to a maternity leave for up to 12 months when the parent is not able to fulfill the duty of confirming the paternity of the child. Necessary documents to be submitted: The conclusion in a paternity case from a District Commissioner’s office or courts.
- When a parent is not entitled to a maternity/paternity leave or maternity/paternity grant in Iceland or has an independent right to a maternity/paternity leave or maternity/paternity grant in another country, the other parent can earn an entitlement to maternity/paternity leave for up to 12 months. If the other parent has a right in another country, the entitlement period is subject to deduction. Necessary documents to be submitted: Confirmation of an entitlement/no entitlement from the country where the parent could have earned an entitlement and a birth certificate where the person is confirmed to be the child’s parent.
- If a parent must stay away from their child or the other parent due to a restraining order, and/or an expulsion from the home and is therefore unable to care of his or her child during the first 24 months after birth, the entitlement to the unused maternity/paternity leave is transferred to the other parent. Necessary documents to be submitted: A confirmation from a police commissioner or courts in the case of a restraining order/expulsion during the period the parent can take maternity/paternity leave.
- If it is apparent that a parent without custody will not take care of their child in the first 24 months after birth or from when a child enters the home after primary adoption or permanent foster care where the parent will not visit the child due to a decision by a legal authority or courts, it is permitted to transfer the unused entitlement of the parent without custody to the other parent. The same applies if visitation rights of the parent without custody are very limited, for instance by being under surveillance on the basis of a decision by an authority or courts. Necessary documents to be submitted: A confirmation from The District Commissioner of the parent’s full and undivided custody and a confirmation that the parent without custody does not have visitation rights on the basis of a decision by The District Commissioner, or courts/confirmation of very limited visitation rights from The District Commissioner or courts.
Custody of a child
- A requirement for parents to be able to use their entitlement to a maternity/paternity leave is that they have sole custody of the child or the parents share the custody.
- Parents without custody can use their entitlement to a maternity/paternity leave if parents with custody give consent for visiting the child during the period of the maternity/paternity leave.
- A parent without custody needs the approval of the parent with the custody of the child: An application for visitation rights of a parent without custody during maternity/paternity leave
- Paternity must be established and a birth certificate issued by Registers Iceland must be sent.
Paternity can be established:
- At The District Commissioner’s office.
- Before a judge in a paternity court case.
- With a written statement, and its signatzure shall then be confirmed by a lawyer or two witnesses. It shall state that the issuer of the declaration has written their name or recognized his signature in the presence of the person or persons certifying the signature. The witnesses shall write their ID number or in certain instances, date of birth and address.
Accumulation and protection of entitlements
Maternity/paternity leave is a basis for calculation of occupational rights such as vacation pay and extended vacation according to collective agreements, pay rise due to age, sickness leave, termination notice period and entitlement to unemployment benefits.
Right to work and protection against termination of employment
- An employment contract agreement between an employee and an employer remains unchanged during maternity/paternity leave, and the employee shall have the right to go return to work the end of it. If that is not possible the employer shall provide a similar job to him or her according to the employment contract.
- It is not permitted to terminate an employment if an employee has informed of a planned maternity/paternity leave or during maternity/paternity leave unless having valid reasons for doing so, and in that case reasons shall be given in writing for the termination. The same applies to termination of the employment of a pregnant woman or a woman who has recently given birth.
Termination of rights
A right to parental leave will be terminated from the day a parent gives up a child for adoption, upbringing or foster care. In these cases the birth parents are entitled to two months of maternity/paternity leave after the birth of a child.