The Norwegian benefit system for new parents is one of the most generous and flexible in the world. Here's what you need to know.
Norway–and Scandinavia as a whole–is known for its generous parental leave policies. It's one of the biggest differences that foreigners see when moving here, especially from countries like the US.
Children are a priority in Norwegian society. All core education and a lot of higher education is delivered free of charge. But the focus on children starts long before school.
The first years of a child's life are seen as key for the child's development. As such, parents are entitled to a combined 12 months' leave related to the birth of a child. Let's take a look at the details.
Who can receive parental benefit?
Norway places three conditions on parental benefit. Firstly, you must live in Norway and be a member of the National Insurance scheme. Essentially, this means you are covered if you are a taxpayer in Norway and considered “tax resident.”
You must have had income for at least six of the last 10 months, which can include payments from NAV. When converted to an annual income, this income must be at least half the present ‘G' value. At the time of writing, this is a little over NOK 50,000.
Adoptive and foster parents have equal rights to leave, from the date when the care of the child is officially transferred. This right does not apply when adopting a stepchild or for children aged over 15.
Same-sex parents have the same rights to parental leave. How the leave is shared depends on whether you have a child via surrogate or whether you are both adoptive parents of the same child.
A mother that does not quality for parental benefit can instead apply for a lump-sum grant. At the time of writing, this is NOK 90,300 for every child you give birth to or adopt.
How long is parental leave in Norway?
How much benefit you receive depends on who is eligible. There are different roles for, for example, simple parents, or situations when only one parent is eligible. What follows is the situation when both parents are eligible for benefit.
Listen: Raising a Child in Norway
Parents are entitled to a combined total of 48 weeks leave in connection with the birth and after the birth. This can be extended to 58 weeks if a lower rate of payment is accepted.
This time includes the mother’s right to leave for up to 12 weeks during the pregnancy. It also includes six weeks of leave reserved for the mother after the birth.
When both parents are entitled to the parental benefit, the parental benefit period consists of a maternal quota, paternal quota and a joint period that can be shared as desired.
The maternal quota is 15 weeks at 100% benefit or 19 weeks at 80% benefit. Mothers also get the last three weeks before the estimated date of delivery.
The first six weeks must be taken immediately following the birth, with the remaining nine taken immediately following this or saved for later.
Read more: Dramatic Increase in Child Poverty in Norway
The paternal quota is the same: 15 weeks at 100% or 19 weeks at 80%. Fathers can take the parental quote from week seven after birth or choose to wait until a later date. The quota can be taken consecutively. divided up, or combined with partial work.
The joint period is the weeks of parental benefit that you can share. It is 16 weeks at 100% or 18 weeks 80%. This can be divided equally, or taken entirely by the mother or father.
However, when the father takes parental benefit from the joint period, the mother must be working, studying or be engaged in some other approved activity.
How much money is paid?
The amount of paid leave is based on annual income up to six times the ‘G' amount. At present this is NOK 608,106. Payments made are based on your income from the last three months, but this can be assessed if it was significantly less than your typical income.
Benefit can be paid by the employer or the state. If paid by the state, benefit is paid out by the 25th of the month.
In addition to the first 12 months, each of the parents is entitled to one year of leave for each birth. This leave must be taken directly after the first year. If you are taking care of the child yourself, you are entitled to both the years. Other people who care for the child may also be entitled to leave.
How to apply for parental leave
While parental leave is an employment right in Norway, you must still apply for it from your employer in good time. This should be done no later than three months before the leave is due to start.
A pregnant employee is also entitled to paid leave in connection with pre-natal appointments.
Disputes over the right to leave may be decided by employment arbitration boards.
Known in Norwegian as kontantstøtte, cash-for-care support or cash support is designed to help parents of children between the ages of 1 and 2 that do not attend a government-subsidised kindergarten.
Cash support is not liable to tax. Specific rates depend on the amount of time the child spends in a kindergarten.
The purpose of child benefit, known in Norwegian as barnetrygd, is to help cover the costs of raising a child.
Most new parents are entitled to receive the payments from the month after the child is born. The child’s mother or father can receive child benefit payments or it can be shared equally.
At the time of writing, the monthly benefit for a single child is NOK 1,354 up to the age of 6, and NOK 1,054 thereafter. Child benefit payments are not liable to tax, and are paid out until the month before the child turns 18. Single parents receive an extra supplement.
More information on family benefits in Norway
Phew! This isn't even half of all the things you need to know as a new parent in Norway. That's especially true for those adopting and for single parents.
But I hope this answers the most basic questions people have about how parental leave in Norway and other benefits work. For the full information, see NAV's family section, but be aware that only some of the content is available in English.