Report says fewer mothers are quitting work after mat leave to raise newborns



jeff hodson/metro vancouver


Andrea Scott returned to work three weeks ago, six months after the birth of her son Rex. A report by Statistics Canada released yesterday found that longer maternity leave resulted in fewer women quitting their jobs to care for their newborns.

Longer maternity leaves in the 1990s resulted in fewer mothers quitting their jobs to spend time with their newborns, a report found yesterday.

For Andrea Scott, the difficult decision to return to work after six months maternity leave was made easier by a flexible work schedule and strong family support.

“When it actually came to go back to work, it was really hard to go through with,” said Scott, who began public relations work at Grouse Mountain three weeks ago, six months after the birth of her son Rex.

A Statistics Canada report released yesterday found that, like Scott, more Canadian women are returning to work after childbirth and fewer are quitting their jobs than they were two decades ago.

A number of factors affecting a woman’s willingness to return to work, the report said — including the scarcity or cost of childcare, a desire to keep breastfeeding, and guilt about leaving infants in the care of strangers — lessen over time.

Scott’s full-time job is flexible, allowing her to work from home two days a week. The other three days her mother and her mother-in-law take turns looking after Rex.

“It works out really well,” said Scott. “I don’t feel like I’m abandoning him. In a lot of ways I feel that it might be a better situation for him, because … when I come back from work all I want to do is play with him, spend time with him. I feel re-energized.”

The study, based on employment records from 1984 to 2004, found that employment for mothers in the year following childbirth peaked at 91 per cent in 1999, up from 84 per cent in 1984. In recent years, however, the short-term employment rate has declined, dropping to 88 per cent in 2004.

The report draws a non-linear relationship between the length of time a mother remains out of the workforce to the amount of job-protected maternity time.

For example, in the 80s, when Canadian mothers had 17 or 18 weeks of maternity leave, many chose to give up their pre-maternity jobs in order to spend more time with their infants.

When maternity leave is of moderate length (29 to 52 weeks) as it was in the 1990s, the study said, mothers are less likely to quit their jobs and return to work in the one year following birth.