Is there such a thing as too much parental leave?

by Janie Smith14 Aug 2014
The idea of too much parental leave seems like an unbelievable concept, but long leave could have unintended consequences for women’s careers.

A study by Cornell University economists Francine D Blau and Lawrence M Kahn found that generous leave policies in European countries allowed more women to work, but they were more likely to have part-time jobs that did not lead to positions of power, The New York Times reported.

The US is one of only two countries worldwide that provides parental leave, but does not require it to be paid.

However, US women were just as likely as men to be managers, while European women were only half as likely to be managers, the Times reported.

According to the study, long leave policies and part-time work protections might lead to women stretching out their leave longer than they otherwise would or scaling back at work and employers might hesitate to hire women who were likely to take advantage of such opportunities.

Finding a happy medium between the US and European policies is the challenge.

“I suspect women in the US would benefit from longer leaves than the 12 weeks that are currently mandated. In Europe the leaves may be so long as to have negative effects on women’s labour market outcomes.”

According to a study done last year by UK recruitment firm, seven in 10 women were worried about redundancy and felt their job was more vulnerable if they took statutory maternity leave after giving birth.

A third of women also believed they had been overlooked for promotion because they were of childbearing age.

Should a generous parental leave policy impact employers’ thinking around hiring women?


  • by ThisHRperson 14/08/2014 2:08:21 PM

    I'm originally from the US where the 12 weeks I've always thought was ridiculous, however working here in AU I've seen the negative consequences from the business perspective when a parent takes 2 years off and then has to be accommodated even if skills/knowledge are now out of date or their flexible schedules put stress on the rest of the team. I've also seen it from the parent's perspective where they have taken off a period of time and will have difficulty entering at the same level.
    It would be good if there was more flexible schedules available as a culture rather than just for parents. It will create a more fair workplace (for those who do not have children) and provide more opportunity to stay involved with your career to balance parental duties.
    There's no easy answer however perhaps if companies themselves had an incentive to integrate their workplace in a better way.
    My workplace is very badly suited for flexible work schedules yet we try to accommodate it (normally to the detriment of the clients/team).

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