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Research Questions

  1. What are the existing policies on family-related leave across Europe, and how, if at all, do they incentivise fathers taking leave after the birth of a child?
  2. How is uptake of paternity and parental leave by fathers linked to the various economic, social and demographic outcomes that are associated with high uptake?
  3. What are current barriers to uptake?
  4. What policies have shown to work to increase uptake?

Despite the positive effect of paternity- and parental leave uptake by fathers on a number of economic, social and demographic outcomes, the current uptake of leave by fathers across Europe is low. Research has shown that there is a large number of interlocking factors that affect uptake of leave by fathers, including the height of compensation, the availability of affordable childcare, the flexibility of leave arrangements, gender norms and cultural expectations. In this brief we describe the different policies available across Europe that address the uptake of paternity leave and parental leave, discuss the link between uptake of leave by fathers and the various outcomes associated with uptake, and give an overview of the existing barriers to uptake. We find that although low or absent compensation levels during the leave are a key factor why fathers will or cannot take their leave entitlement, an increase in uptake will most likely result from an interlocking set of family policies that help dual earner families to combine work and family life in a sustainable manner. These include policies that directly encourage fathers to take up leave, such as well-compensated individual leave entitlements, policies aimed at creating a sustainable solution to the challenges of combining work and family life, such as leave arrangements that are flexible and adaptive to individual needs, but also policies aimed at changing workplace culture.

Key Findings

Low or absent compensation levels during the leave are a key factor why fathers will or cannot take their leave entitlement.

Other important factors that determine uptake, which vary widely across Europe are:

  • Eligibility criteria directly influence who can take leave.
  • Flexibility in the timing of uptake has a positive effect on uptake
  • Availability and access to childcare are positively related to uptake
  • The tax system can produce disincentives to take leave
  • Cultural norms and beliefs affect uptake

Recommendation

  • An increase in uptake will most likely result from an interlocking set of family policies that help dual earner families to combine work and family life in a sustainable manner. These include policies that directly encourage fathers to take up leave, such as well-compensated individual leave entitlements, and policies aimed at creating a sustainable solution to the challenges of combining work and family life, such as leave arrangements that are flexible and adaptive to individual needs, but also policies aimed at changing workplace culture.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Family-related leave policies across Europe

  • Chapter Three

    Differences between parental leave and paternal leave

  • Chapter Four

    Outcomes: why is a father's leave uptake so important?

  • Chapter Five

    What are current obstacles for uptake?

  • Chapter Six

    Future directions

  • Chapter Seven

    Conclusions

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was commissioned by the European Commission's Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion and conducted by RAND Europe.

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