Labor Law

Maternity and parental leave in Portugal

Learn about maternity and parental leave in Portugal, including how to apply for it and your rights when returning to work.

Parental leave in Portugal

By Joana Taborda

Updated 9-1-2024

Maintaining financial stability while having a baby or adopting a child is important for all parents. And fortunately for those living in Portugal, the country’s generous labor law means that they can receive up to 100% of their income during the start of parental leave.

That said, mothers have more leave than fathers and take some of this before giving birth. This financial support comes from the Portuguese social security system, which also provides benefits for parents that are self-employed or unemployed.

To help you understand the laws surrounding parental leave in Portugal, this article includes the following information:

Portuguese labor law

Portugal has implemented several labor laws to protect employees and their families. The Portuguese Constitution (Constituição da República Portuguesa) and Labor Code (Código do Trabalho) cover fundamental worker rights, which include benefits like parental leave.

an aerial view of a new mother and father cradling their newborn baby and looking down lovingly as it sleeps
Photo: Halfpoint Images/Getty Images

The licença parental, as it is known, is accessible for both mothers and fathers. It ranges between 120 and 150 days and can be taken by either partner or shared between them.

During parental leave, employees will receive a percentage of their salary, which is usually around 100%. This is notably higher than countries such as Belgium (90%) and Hungary (70%). Portugal is also one of the few countries in the EU to have mandatory paternity leave.

How long is maternity leave in Portugal?

In Portugal, parental leave lasts for a total of 120 or 150 consecutive days. Mothers can enjoy an exclusive maternity leave (licença parental exclusiva da mãe) which consists of the following:

  • 30 days’ leave before the birth (optional)
  • 42 days’ leave after the birth (mandatory)

If you are having a baby in Portugal and decide to take leave before the birth, you should tell your employer as soon as possible and present a doctor’s note (atestado médico) with the potential birth date. During this period of leave, you can receive maternity pay that amounts to 100% of your reference salary if you take 120 days of leave or 80% of your salary if you take 150 days. 

a mother holding her newborn baby on her lap as she lays in a hospital bed
Photo: Thanasis Zovoilis/Getty Images

Parents can also extend their parental leave for up to three months, which is known as complementary parental leave (licença parental complementar). However, in this case, they will only receive 25% of their salary. Notably, Portugal also offers paid leave for adoptive parents (licença por adoção) who take in a child under 15 years old.

Maternity pay comes from Portugal’s social security system and to be eligible to receive it, employees must have paid social security contributions for at least six months, either consecutively or aggregated.

If you are working in Portugal, your employer will take part of your income to cover this. However, if you are self-employed, you will have to make these contributions yourself.

In some cases, private firms can offer additional benefits, too. In fact, according to the Global Parental Leave 2016 study, around 36% of Portuguese companies were offering an allowance above what was stipulated by law.

How do you apply for parental allowance?

You can apply for parental allowance (subsídio parental) on Portugal’s Social Security website or in person at one of the government offices. However, it is important to be aware that you have six months after you stopped working to request it.

You need to present the following documents to book your maternity leave in Portugal:

  • Completed form Mod. RP5049-DGSS
  • Medical certification of the physical or psychological incapacity of the other parent or death certificate (when applying for the single parent allowance due to the impossibility of the other)
  • Medical statement with the expected due date (if you request the subsidy before the birth)
  • Statement with a bank account number

Maternity rights in Portugal

Portugal offers exclusive rights to pregnant women at work. These include the following:

It is important to note that if you have a high-risk pregnancy (gravidez de risco), you may also have the right to receive additional protections. 

How long is paternity leave in Portugal?

Portugal increased the statutory paternity leave (licença parental exclusiva de paternidade) from 20 to 28 days in 2023. Notably, five of these should be taken immediately after the child’s birth.

a father changing his baby's nappy as his young daughter watches
Photo: Vera Livchak/Getty Images

An extra seven days can also be requested once that leave finishes. Parents experiencing multiple births, hospitalization, or premature birth can also receive additional leave. The same applies to those adopting a child.

To apply for paternity leave, you should inform your employer in writing and include the desired starting date for the leave. During this period, fathers can receive 100% of their regular salary. Similar to mothers, they must have paid social security contributions for at least six months to be eligible for this.

Again, some private firms may offer additional benefits to supplement the statutory paternity pay.

Is it possible to share parental leave in Portugal?

Fortunately, it is possible to share parental leave in Portugal. This allows both partners to take time off and care for their children.

Parents who decide to do this can take 30 extra days in addition to the mandatory six months. The amount of pay they will receive during this time can vary from 83% (if they initially take 150 days of leave) or 100% (if they take 120 days).

To book shared leave, both parents should inform their employer of the start and end of the leave. However, if both parents work for the same employer, that employer may postpone the leave for one of them.

Can you take unpaid parental leave in Portugal?

Once you have finished the initial period of paternity leave, you can request unpaid leave, which is also known as licença para assistência a filho. This can last up to two years. However, if you have three or more children, the leave can extend up to three years.

If an employee doesn’t specify a duration, the leave will last for six-month, with the option to renew it. They are eligible for this if their partner is working or isn’t able to take care of the children. During the period of leave, the employee is not allowed to work.

To book unpaid parental leave, you should inform your employer in writing at least 30 days in advance. Notably, one way to compensate for your loss of income is to apply for an assistance subsidy, which is known as subsídio para assistência a filho.

Parental leave for self-employed workers

If you are self-employed in Portugal or run your own business, you are also eligible for parental leave. The duration is the same, but the amount is calculated based on past contributions to social security.

a pregnant woman using a laptop while sitting on bench in a park
Photo: Morsa Images/Getty Images

If possible, it is worth topping up your contributions to receive a larger subsidy, about one year before you intend to get pregnant. You can apply for paid parental leave directly on the social security website, providing the same documents outlined above.

Parental leave for unemployed parents

The social security system in Portugal ensures that unemployed parents have the right to receive paid leave. That said, it is worth noting that unemployment benefits and other financial aid will be put on hold during parental leave.

You should notify the Employment Office (Centro de Emprego) within five working days of the start and end of the parental subsidy.

Returning to work in Portugal

When you are ready to return to work, you should inform your employer as soon as possible. As stated in Portuguese labor law, parents can request reduced hours or a work-from-home arrangement if this is compatible with their job role.

Additional rights related to childcare

As a new parent returning to work, you also have additional rights related to childcare, including the following:

  • Breastfeeding time (dispensa para amamentação): Mothers are entitled to two hours of breastfeeding time per day for the first 12 months after birth. This can be split into two periods of one hour each. In the case of multiple babies, they have 30 more minutes per child. After 12 months, you need a doctor’s notice to justify breastfeeding time. If both parents are working, and the child cannot be breastfed, one or both parties can request a breastfeeding waiver (dispensa de aleitação) until the baby is one year old. In both cases, you should notify your employer at least ten days in advance.
  • Absences for childcare (faltas para assistência de filho): Parents are entitled to leave when their child becomes ill or in the event of an accident, as long as they do not do so simultaneously. If the child is under 12 years old, or if they have a disability or chronic illness, each parent can be absent for up to 30 days a year, plus one more day for each additional child. If the child is in the hospital, both the mother and father have the right to be absent during the entire period of hospitalization. These days are unpaid, but you can request a subsidy through the social security system.
  • Exemption from working overtime: Parents are exempt from working overtime until the child turns one. Notably, for mothers, this period can extend beyond 12 months if they are still breastfeeding.
  • Exemption from night shifts: Working mothers are exempt from working between 20:00 and 07:00 the next day. The night shift waiver lasts for 112 days, half of which must be taken before the expected birth date.

What parental support is available in Portugal?

The Portuguese social security system offers a range of family allowances to help support new parents. These include the following:

  • Family allowance for children and young people (abono de família para crianças e jovens): A monthly cash benefit to compensate expenses related to the support and education of children and adolescents. Payable until the age of 16 or up to 24 if the child is still in high-level education or disabled. The amount varies according to the income, the age of the child, and the number of children in the family/household.
  • Prenatal family allowance (abono de família pré-natal): Six months of financial support for pregnant women starting the month after the 13th week of pregnancy. The amount is based on income but currently ranges from €58.39 to €149.85.
  • Single parent allowance (abono para familías monoparentais): The prenatal family allowance or the family allowance for children and adolescents can increase by 35% in the case of single-parent families
  • Other parental benefits: These cover paternal leave but also benefits regarding termination of pregnancy, risk pregnancies, hospitalization of newborns, and displacement to a hospital outside the area of residence, among others

Childcare in Portugal

As your baby grows, there will be other expenses to consider, such as childcare. The cost of childcare in Portugal can vary depending on the type of institution you apply for.

a carer looking after a small baby at a daycare center, smiling and holding a toy
Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

In most cases, parents can access public daycare centers and preschool education for free or at an affordable rate based on family income. However, they may need to cover costs such as meals, which can be around €50 a month. Notably, monthly fees can range from €350 to over €1,800 at private childcare institutions.

What to do if your employer refuses to grant you parental leave

Employers in Portugal are generally obliged to give parental leave, and to be eligible, employees must have paid social security contributions for at least six months.

However, if your employer refuses to grant you parental leave and you think that they are violating your rights, you can take action. Before you do so, though, be sure to review your contract and the Portuguese labor law.

You can also contact the Autoridade para as Condições do Trabalho (Authority for Working Conditions – ACT) or consult with a lawyer.

Useful resources

  • ePortugal – a government website portal that offers information on a variety of topics relating to having a child in Portugal
  • European Commission – provides a detailed list of benefits and rights for parents in Portugal and the rest of the EU 
  • Segurança Social – the Portuguese social security website which provides support related to child benefits and parental leave