Incentivising parents with young children to return to the labour market after parental leave
Employers in the EU have a wide range of options to incentivise parents of young children to return to work. Government policies addressing the unequal distribution of unpaid (care) work and reducing the gender pay gap would also help increase the employment of mothers.
What is the issue?
In 2018, women's employment rates were lower than men’s in almost all EU member states, according to Eurostat data. Childcare duty has been attributed as an important reason for this underlying gender gap, with many parents deciding not to return to work after childbirth.
While different practices and policies have been implemented across the EU to support parents in returning to work, the most common being family-related leave, a number of factors still discourage them from doing so.
How did we help?
RAND Europe, PPMI and IBS were commissioned by the European Parliament’s Directorate for Internal Policies of the Union to explore which incentives are effective in encouraging parents with young children to return to the labour market after leave.
The study looked at promising practices from EU member states, employers’ approaches, and public interventions that support parents with young children in their return to work. It also considered how the employment situation of parents with young children differs from those without and identified the factors that affect parents’ decisions to return to work.
This research aimed to understand the role of the EU in supporting the labour market participation of parents with young children, as well as to identify possible ways to strengthen it in the future.
What did we find?
The work patterns of parents with young children in the EU do not change much over time, and show that:
- New mums are less likely to be in employment and more likely to be working part-time, compared to women without young children.
- New dads are more likely to be in employment than those without young children.
- New parents are more likely than those without young children to be self-employed and working from home.
The factors that affect parents’ decisions to return to work can be grouped into four categories: socio-demographic and household characteristics, societal/cultural attitudes and values, employment characteristics and policy levers. In addition, the study revealed that:
- There is a wide range of options for employers to help parents with young children return to work, including: keeping in touch with parents during leave, career development or coaching upon return, childcare provisions or breastfeeding facilities at workplace, and supporting fathers in taking leave.
- The level of managerial support, alongside job quality, work conditions and workplace culture affect parents’ experiences and can play a role in deciding to return to work.
- Active Labour Market Policies (ALMPs), which support people who are unemployed to find paid work, could be failing to recognise the needs of groups of parents other than single parents (such as those with migrant backgrounds, or with children with disabilities).
What do we recommend?
Areas where the EU might take new or additional actions include:
- Reinforcing efforts to improve gender equality by addressing the unequal distribution of unpaid (care) work and reducing the gender pay gap, both of which would help to increase women’s – and therefore mothers’ – employment.
- Reviewing the need to further enforce or strengthen leave provision for the self-employed and people in precarious employment.
- Addressing evidence and knowledge gaps highlighted in this study by conducting additional research to further help different groups of parents with young children.