Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Family Leave - International Comparison


A friend (thanks Diego Fazi!) recently posted on facebook the image to the left, showing various national policies for the number of weeks provided for maternity leave. Click here for the raw data.

 Yes, men and women in other countries face other obstacles in achieving work-life balance. This figure is simply pointing out the reality that the Family Medical Leave Act falls short and didn't have to.

The most progressive and useful of the policies provide both maternity and paternity paid leave. Gender neutral policies reflect the reality within our community in which most early-career couples are dual career couples and child rearing is shared by both parents. Gender neutral policies reinforce the message that shared parenting is valued and respected within our community.

Here are a few of these 'best-practice' policies:

  • Canada: 55% up to $413/week for 50 weeks (15 weeks maternity + 35 weeks parental leave shared with father) 
  • Iceland: 90 days 80% up to a ceiling of 480,000 (€5,300, $6,700) monthly (minimum monthly payment 91,200 (€1000, $1,275) + 90 days to be shared between the parents 
  • Norway: 54 weeks (12.5 months) (80%) or 44 weeks (10 months) (100%) - mother must take at least 3 weeks immediately before birth and 6 weeks immediately after birth, father must take at least 6 weeks - the rest can be shared between mother and father. 
  • Sweden: 480 days (16 months) (80% up to a ceiling the first 390 days, 90 days at flat rate) - shared with father (minimum 60 days) 

Let's narrow the focus now to our small astronomy community. For a list of current family leave policies for astronomy graduate students and postdocs in astronomy departments in the U.S. (and to add your department's policy if it's not yet listed), please click here.

In terms of bringing change: Already, ~1100 astronomers have signed our petition, voicing their support for improving family leave policies for graduate students and postdocs. I encourage you to sign, and more importantly, find out what the policy is in your department.

Dave Charbonneau (CSWA member) is currently compiling responses to his survey of astronomy department chairs of current policies and practices with regards to family leave, adoption, and childcare for astronomy graduate students and postdocs. Once we have those results, we will share them with the community.

-Laura Trouille (CIERA Postdoctoral Fellow at Northwestern University)