For women with permanent employment, Italy distinguishes between mandatory and voluntary maternity leave. Mandatory maternity period runs for a period of five months, usually from two months before the birth until three months after. During this period, the salary is paid at current levels; all other claims will remain. After this period of five months, it is possible to take parental leave. Both parents are entitled to a maximum of six months voluntary parental leave within the first eight years of each child’s life. The total time per parental couple is limited to ten months; if the father takes at least three months of parental leave, the limit increases to eleven months.
Wages are paid at a rate of 30% during the first six months of parental leave. All other months are only covered if they are taken within the first three years of the child life and if the income does not exceed a statutory limit. During the first year of the child’s life, workers are entitled to a break of up to two hours. Up until the third year, they have an absolute right to remain at home in the case of a child’s illness; up until the eighth year, each parent can take five days per year for this purpose. There is limited maternity leave available for the self-employed: for the five months around the birth of a child, financial compensation is prescribed. The self-employed also enjoy parental leave benefits only in rare cases: freelancers, project workers and independent employees are completely excluded.