Is there such a thing as too much parental leave?

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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 maternitycover.com, 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?
 

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