Leave Policies and Practice for Non-Traditional Families

Published in: Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion (2019). doi: 10.2767/276102

Posted on RAND.org on August 16, 2019

by Natalie Picken, Barbara Janta

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The right to maternity, paternity and parental leave for families is now well established in many European Union (EU) Member States. As of 2019, most EU Member States offer some form of maternity, paternity and parental leave following the birth of a child. There remain several differences across Member States in terms of the length of leave, level of compensation and extent of flexibility allowed. However, as policy is formulated and positioned towards the traditional nuclear family, the access that other, less traditional family types have to such leave is under-explored. This policy memo provides an introduction to the access that parents in adoptive families, reconstituted families (families with step-parents and step-children), and families with same-sex parents have to different types of family leave. Almost all Member States make provision for adoptive families, with some offering leave arrangements above and beyond what is offered to traditional families. However, access to parental leave is more complicated for families with same-sex parents and reconstituted families. Only a minority of Member States allow the partner of a parent to take parental leave to look after a child to whom they have no legal relationship. As same-sex couples' access to different types of family leave depends almost entirely on their legal rights to become parents, this too is developing unevenly across Member States. These divergences result in different parental care provisions being available to children depending on the type of families and the Member State in which they grow up.

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