hen the birth of a child is approaching, it is normal that some questions occupy your mind: “How does parental leave work?”, “Does the dad also have the right to this leave?”, “For how many days can the couple take this leave?”, “Will I receive any allowance?”...

Before we answer these questions, let's start at the beginning. After all, what is parental leave? And what is parental allowance?

Parental leave is a right granted to fathers and mothers so that they can stay at home for a certain period of time, after the birth of their child, to provide the necessary care. During this period, the couple is entitled to financial support – the parental allowance – which is intended to replace the lack of income for the time they will be absent from work. The parental allowance thus replaces the salary of workers during their period of leave, and applies in the case of newborn or adopted children.

Preparing your license is very important, as this way you can take time off work without sacrificing your career. And, with this prior planning, you will be able to fully enjoy parenting.

Coverflex has prepared a guide with five steps so that the preparation of the license is not a “puzzle”, and where you will find answers to your main questions.

1. Find out about the current Portuguese legislation

Portuguese legislation guarantees parents the right to parental leave. Since the changes that took place in 2019 to Law n.º 7/2009 of the Portuguese Labour Code, we no longer speak about maternity or paternity leave, but about parental leave as a whole. This is because, in addition to the responsibilities shared by mothers and fathers, there are also single-parent families or families composed of same-sex couples. Thus, the new regulation arises with the objective of equalizing the benefits, both in the duration of absence from work, and in payment.

But you need to know that there are different maternity and paternity rights in Portugal. The Labour Code defines different rules and possibilities for each possible case. Therefore, it is important to be informed about each type of parental leave. These are the most common situations:

a) Initial parental leave

Initial parental leave can last for 120 or 150 consecutive days. These days can be enjoyed by both women and men, and can also be shared by both. If the couple chooses to share the leave, they are entitled to an extra 30 days of allowance, which may total up to 180 days. The extra 30 days can be enjoyed by only one parent or, once again, shared by both. In this case, it can be used consecutively or in two periods of 15 days.

It is important to know that mothers who go through a high-risk pregnancy can request a specific medical leave. To do so, it is necessary to submit the application for clinical risk during pregnancy, termination of pregnancy and specific risks to the Portuguese Social Security, as well as the application for compensatory benefits for Christmas and holiday allowances. Keep in mind though that self-employed workers (“recibos verdes”* or individual entrepreneurs) are not entitled to Christmas and holiday compensation benefits. For more information, check this document, which you can find on the Portuguese Social Security’s website.

b) Maternity leave

Although there is the option of parental leave, there are those who choose maternity leave. For starters, mothers can take an optional 30 days off before giving birth. In the days after childbirth, they are entitled to a mandatory period of six weeks (42 days). If there is no sharing between the members of the couple, the right to do this is automatically given to the mother.

c) Paternity leave

Fathers also have a period of exclusive parental leave. It is mandatory for the father to take parental leave of 20 working days, consecutive or intercalated, in the six weeks following the birth of the child, five of which taken consecutively immediately after this, says Law N.º 7/2009 of article 42. Optional days can be used or not, but always after mandatory days. In the case of the birth of twins, the parents receive two working days of absence for each child, besides the first one. In addition, parents are entitled to three days off work to attend prenatal appointments.

In the case of death or physical or psychological disability of the mother, whether she is employed or not, the father is also entitled to the full allowance of 120 days of leave. To take advantage of it, it is necessary to present a medical certificate.

In Portugal, many fathers still do not enjoy the right to paternity leave. Many make this decision based on the pressure they feel in the work environment, as well as the fear of losing their position or responsibility in the organisation. However, studies on the subject show that, by choosing to take parental leave, men become strong allies of women, allowing them access to better career opportunities and reducing the gender pay gap, Bloomberg reports.

d) Adoption leave

In cases of adoption of a child, the adopter can enjoy the initial parental leave, of 120 days of absence, from the moment the minor is judicially or administratively trusted to the adopter. If the adopter is a couple, they can choose which of the two will be entitled to a longer period of absence. Keep in mind, however, that this benefit is only valid for cases of adoption of children under 15 years old.

e) Extended parental leave

After the initial parental leave period, parents can apply for extended parental leave, for a period of up to three months each. Once approved, this leave includes extended parental allowance. However, the amount to be paid differs from that received during the initial days of absence. According to Portuguese Social Security, in the case of extended parental leave, the amount paid is 25%, provided that it is taken immediately after the period in which the initial parental allowance or the extended parental allowance of the other parent is granted.

2. Find out how long you can be away from your company

Now that you know your rights under the Portuguese law, find out from your employer if there are any extra benefits in what comes to the days granted for parental leave. Some companies – that are aware that the start of a family does not depend only on the couple and public support, and that the employer can also have a huge weight in the decision – have made an additional effort to accomodate employees in this new phase of their lives.

In Portugal, Nestlé’s “Spend more time with your baby” program allows you to extend your parenting leave for an extra two months beyond the period provided by the government. In addition, the company has created breastfeeding rooms in all its units, makes its baby food products available free of charge during the first year of the baby's life and provides financial support for studies from pre-school to university education. IKEA employees, on the other hand, can count on a monthly help proportional to the contracted hours, as well as on the offer of several brand products, essential for the first months of the baby's life. In the tech company ITSector, the new parents, in addition to receiving a check of 500 euros for the birth and/or adoption of each child, can enjoy a culture of flexibility that provides for situations of paid absence due to accompaniment of their children.

These are just a few examples in Portugal of common practices of organisations that want employees to feel more supported and happy and that even, the companies say, translate into a higher retention rate. Therefore, check with your employer if there are any measures of this kind and which ones you can take advantage of.

3. Decide how you will take the leave. This will affect the amount of your parental allowance

Only parents will know how they want to share the leave, but your decision may affect the amount that falls into your bank account at the end of the month. If the leave is taken by only one of the parents, it can last 120 days, with 100% pay, or 150 days, but then the pay will only be 80%.

On the other hand, if the leave is shared, parents can take a total of 150 days earning 100%, or 180 days earning 83%. In the case of twins or multiple adoptions, 30 days are given for each child in addition to the first, and always with 100% of the remuneration.

Remuneration is calculated by taking into account the total remuneration registered with Portuguese Social Security in the first six calendar months immediately preceding the second month prior to the beginning of the impediment to work. But parents who want to adopt or have children in Portugal are entitled to more than a parental allowance.

4. Apply for the allowance within six months of the 1st day you stopped working

The parental allowance must be claimed within six months of the first day you stopped working. Make sure you don’t miss the deadline! If you do not submit the application within this period, but submit it during the statutory period for granting the allowance, you will have a discount on the period of granting the benefit for the time that has passed beyond six months.

In order to apply for the parental allowance, you must submit the completed form ModeloRP5049-DGSS, together with the requested documents mentioned therein. Here you can find all the information and instructions you need to complete it correctly.

As for how you can apply for financial support, there are three options. The first one is through the Portuguese Social Security Direct website, the second one is in person at their customer service, and the third one is via email, to the district centre in your area of ​​residence.

5. Discover other types of government support

In addition to the traditional public education and health services, the Portuguese government also provides prenatal and child and youth family allowances (depending on the level of income), free daycare for some children and even tax deductions such as IRS and Municipal Property Tax.

There are also certain areas of the country (especially inland) that want to increase their birth rate and settle young people and couples in the region. To this end, they go even further than the government. Municipalities, parishes and islands provide various types of support, ranging from free transport cards for young people and the offer of snacks or meals in school to the offer of school supplies. However, the most common is the award of an allowance to new parents. This is the case of Nelas, Mealhada and Alcobaça, which allocate the money through reimbursement of expenses incurred in the municipality for the child (according to the regulations of the respective municipalities). Lamego also grants an allowance of 500 euros for the purchase of diapers or milk in establishments in the municipality.

Anyone can apply for this support, regardless of income, as long as the children are integrated into resident households (at least 24 months before birth) and registered in any of the parishes in the municipality (12 months before birth) and that have no debts to the government.

*”recibos verdes”, which literally means “green receipts”, are invoices, receipts or invoice-receipts that self-employed workers have to legally issue anytime they sell a product or provide a service to a customer.