Going Back Part-Time: Federal Leave Legislation and Women's Return to Work

Whitney Schott, University of Pennsylvania

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees eligible women job protection and health benefits for 12 weeks surrounding childbirth. This paper tests whether the FMLA may have afforded women more bargaining power with which to negotiate flexible work arrangements, such as return to work at part-time status. Data show that the percent of women working full-time during pregnancy who return to part-time work at the same employer after their first birth doubles, from 8 percent in the early 1990s, prior to FMLA's passage, to 16 percent in the early 2000s. This paper finds that the implementation of the FMLA is significantly associated with a higher odds of returning to part-time relative to full-time work, among first-time mothers working full-time during their pregnancy. Furthermore, eligibility for a greater number leave weeks (state and federal leave combined) is significantly associated with a higher odds of part-time as opposed to full-time return.

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Presented in Session 35: Family Leave Policies