Paid parental leave significantly enhances the health and wellbeing of new mothers, an Australian study has found. Both mental and physical wellbeing were improved after the introduction of paid parental leave in the Melbourne area.
University of Melbourne researchers investigated the health effects of the introduction of a near universal paid parental leave scheme in Australia, as part of a natural social policy experiment. The scheme, which involved 18 weeks leave at the minimum wage rate, aimed to address gender equity and workforce engagement, as well as to enhance the health and wellbeing of mothers and babies.
The researchers noted that although there is evidence that leave, especially paid leave, can benefit mothers’ health post-partum, the potential health benefits of implementing a nationwide scheme have rarely been investigated.
Over 5,000 mothers were surveyed as part of the study, before and after the introduction of the scheme. Better mental and physical health among mothers was seen after the introduction of paid leave, although the researchers admit the effects were small.
New mothers on casual (insecure) contracts before birth had significantly better mental health than those surveyed prior to the introduction of the scheme; the authors said this suggested the scheme delivered health benefits to mothers who were relatively disadvantaged. However, mothers on permanent contracts and in managerial or professional occupations also had significantly better mental and physical health following paid parental leave. These mothers were more likely to combine the Government sponsored leave with additional, paid, employer benefits, enabling a longer paid leave package post-partum, the researchers added.
“The study provides evidence that introducing paid maternity leave universally delivers health benefits to mothers,” concluded the authors, although they noted that the “modest” 18 week PPL provision “did little to redress health inequalities”.
Last year’s Safe Motherhood Reporte found that one-third of women surveyed across Europe reported that their pregnancy had hampered their advancement in their workplace, and 14 per cent felt actively discriminated against. It was also seen that many women returned to work shortly after giving birth, with more than 50 per cent returning to part-time or full-time work within three months of giving birth. In addition, a number of women reported changed conditions and/or difficulties upon their return to work.
Read the study abstract HERE: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953617302459