Maternity and paternity leave

Maternity and paternity leave in Iceland

As of 1 January 2021, the new maternity and paternity leave for 12 months is in effect.

Time - equal rights

Extending the same benefits to mothers and fathers regarding maternity and paternity leave is an essential step toward gender equality in Iceland. To apply for maternity or paternity leave, please contact Fæðingarorlofssjóður.

Each parent receives six months of leave, with one month transferable between the parents. However, the right to parental leave will then expire when the child reaches eighteen months. The extended parental leave encourages both parents to fulfill their family obligations but also increases employment and serves to equalize opportunities in the labor market. It is often possible to negotiate with your employer to extend your parental leave, but this will lower your income each month proportionally.


Standard maternity and paternity leave payments are 80% of your average income, capped at ISK 600,000 per month (before taxes). There is a special scheme for students (max ISK 184,119) and people outside the workforce (max ISK 80,341). More information and statistics are available, in Icelandic, at the Directorate of Labour.


In Iceland, childbirth is usually at a hospital with midwives attending the birth and a doctor on call. Deliveries are not charged for in Iceland as they are part of the healthcare system. Homebirths are gaining popularity, and if this is something you decide, two midwives will assist you at your home. Homebirth is only approved for pregnancies deemed low-risk. Caesarian sections are rare in Iceland compared to other countries and are reserved only when there are complications. After giving birth, a midwife will visit you daily for five days to make sure everything is going well. Midwives are an incredible resource (especially for first-time parents) at answering questions, assisting with breastfeeding, and check-ups. Afterward, the local health care clinic will send a visiting nurse to follow up. At 10-12 weeks, visits will be at your local healthcare clinic (heilsugæsla) to meet with a nurse (occasionally a pediatrician) for measurements and start the immunization schedule. 

More information on antenatal and postnatal care can be found at the Primary Health Care of the Capital Area.

Parental leave

In addition to maternity and paternity leave, parents have the right to take one unpaid leave from work for up to 13 consecutive weeks to care for a child up to age 8.

Protection of rights

During maternity and paternity leave (or parental leave), the employment contract and all acquired rights remain intact.