Maternity leave take-up in UK academia. Why are they hurrying back?

Joanna Clifton-Sprigg, University of Bath

Joanna Clifton-Sprigg, University of Bath

In this paper we explore the effects of terms of maternity leave policy on the duration of leave taken by mothers, focusing on the higher education sector in the United Kingdom, where there is a wide variation in financial coverage of the packages offered by employers. We use unique newly collected individual level data for over 13,000 academic and professional services staff at Higher Education Institutions (HEI) in the UK and add to it data on university characteristics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency and area-level characteristics from the Office for National Statistics. Using an instrumental variable approach, we find that on average academics take 2 additional weeks of leave for every additional week of full pay provided within the maternity leave package, when professional services staff take 2.7 additional weeks. Academics respond positively to the financial terms of the policy in departments with a lower proportion of teaching-only contracts, higher proportion of female employees and in institutions with above median generosity of the maternity leave package. These results may suggest the culture, research and teaching environment within departments may affect decisions of academics differently than of professional service staff.

About the speaker:

Joanna Clifton-Sprigg is a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Economics at the Department of Economics at the University of Bath. Her research interests are in labour and gender economics, migration and economics of education. She has been been previously also interested in post-socialist reforms in Central and Eastern Europe.

She is also a member of Dobrobyt na pokolenia (prosperity for generations) – group of Polish economists providing expert commentaries to economic and political events, based on academic research. 

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