Canada Maternity Leave: Women Quitting Jobs After Childbirth A Wake-Up Call For Businesses

Posted: Updated: 06/19/2012 9:30 pm

When Elizabeth Monier-Williams started her maternity leave last year, she wasn’t aggressively looking for a new job.

But after spending five years in York University’s communications department, where — despite great colleagues and a supportive atmosphere — there wasn’t much room for advancement, she was ready for a change. So she kept her eye on openings, and when a few piqued her interest, she applied.

“I thought, ‘Wow. Those are great opportunities, I can’t not throw my hat in,” the mother of two told The Huffington Post.

Earlier this spring, she cut her leave a month short, and accepted a more senior position as marketing and communications manager at Toronto-based MaRS Innovation.

Ever quit your job while on maternity leave, or know someone who has? Tell us about it in the comments section.

Though she says there are “always mixed feelings” about leaving an organization, she didn’t feel guilty about using her leave to find a new job.

“The need for challenging and meaningful work is something that resonates with a lot of women,” she said. “It shouldn’t surprise people if they take the time over mat leave to think about what they want and shift gears so that it works for them.”

There is no data on how many women switch jobs while on maternity leave in Canada each year. But anecdotal evidence suggests that while the majority of women (and men) who leave work to care for a newborn do return, stories like Monier-Williams’ have become relatively commonplace.

Whether motivated by the desire for a fresh start or the need to find a position that will better support work-life balance, it’s a trend that reflects the ongoing erosion of company loyalty in workplaces across the country — and has created an unspoken bias among some employers against hiring would-be mothers.

But as competition for talent heats up, observers say companies that fail to take action to retain new parents do so at their own peril.

(STORY CONTINUES UNDER SLIDESHOW)

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  • United States

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>12 Weeks <br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> No national program but cash benefits may be provided at the state level.

  • Iceland

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>3 Months <br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 80

  • Germany

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>14 Weeks <br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 100

  • Japan

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>14 Weeks <br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 67

  • Malta

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>14 Weeks <br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 100

  • New Zealand

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>14 Weeks Paid, 38 Weeks Unpaid<br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 100

  • Switzerland

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>14 Weeks <br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 80

  • Belgium

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>15 Weeks <br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 82 per cent for the first 30 days and 75 per cent for the remaining period.

  • Finland

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>105 Days<br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 70

  • Slovenia

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>105 Days <br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 100

  • Austria

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>16 Weeks <br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 100

  • France

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>16 Weeks <br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 100

  • Latvia

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>112 Days <br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 100

  • Luxembourg

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>16 Weeks <br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 100

  • Netherlands

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>16 Weeks <br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 100

  • Spain

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>16 Weeks <br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 100

  • Greece

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>119 Days <br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 50

  • Australia

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>18 Weeks <br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> Each parent can take up to 12 months of leave, of which 18 weeks are paid.

  • Lithuania

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>126 Days<br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 100

  • Belarus

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>126 Days<br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 100

  • Moldova

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>126 Days<br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 100

  • Ukraine

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>126 Days<br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 100

  • Romania

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>126 Days<br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 85

  • Portugal

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>120 to 150 Days<br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> Parental benefits paid at 100 per cent for the shorter duration of leave and 80 per cent for the longer option

  • Estonia

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>140 Days<br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 100

  • Poland

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>20 Weeks<br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 100

  • Russia

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>140 Days<br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 100

  • Italy

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>5 Months<br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 80

  • Bulgaria

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>135 Days<br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong>90

  • Hungary

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>24 Weeks<br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 70

  • Ireland

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>26 Weeks<br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 80

  • Czech Republic

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>28 Weeks<br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 60

  • Slovakia

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>28 Weeks<br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 55

  • Macedonia

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>9 Months<br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> Not found.

  • Norway

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>36 to 46 Weeks<br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> Parental benefits paid at 100 per cent for the shorter duration of leave and 80 per cent for the longer option.

  • Albania

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>365 Days<br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 80 per cent prior to birth and for 150 days after and 50 per cent for the rest of the leave period. <i>Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha shown here</i>.

  • Bosnia And Herzegovina

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>1 Year<br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 82 per cent for the first 30 days and 75 per cent for the remaining period.

  • Canada

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>52 Weeks<br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 55 per cent at 17 weeks for maternity leave, and the additional 35 weeks can be taken by either parent. Wages also depend on province.

  • Croatia

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>1 Year<br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 100

  • Denmark

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>52 Weeks<br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 100

  • Serbia

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>52 Weeks<br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 100

  • United Kingdom

    52 Weeks 90 (p)

  • Sweden

    <strong>Length Of Maternity Leave: </strong>420 Days<br><strong>Percentage Of Wages Paid:</strong> 80

“It’s just the age that we live in, that both companies and employees are willing to sever that working relationship should one of them get a better offer, or the situation change,” said Mike Moffatt, a labour expert at the University of Western Ontario’s Ivey School of Business.

“The employer has to realize that if they want to keep and maintain a well-trained staff and … have loyal workers that they’re going to have to provide those incentives.”

SHIFTING PRIORITIES

There are many reasons why women may switch jobs while on leave, but Alison Konrad, an expert in organizational behaviour at Ivey, says “a lack of challenging and interesting work” is a major one.

“Women who go on a maternity leave from a job where they are feeling plateaued and see few opportunities for growth and development may well use that time to search for another job,” said Konrad, who serves as the Corus Entertainment Chair in Women in Management at Ivey. “After all, taking care of your baby is compelling and important. Why would you want to go back to a paid job from that, unless the paid job is also compelling and interesting?”

This can be a particularly strong motivator among high-achieving women (and men), for whom a year away from the office provides a rare opportunity to take a long, hard look at their career path.

“When you’re at work, you’re so in the thick of it, and it’s comfortable. You’re used to the job. You know what’s expected of you,” said Sara, a Toronto-area teacher who recently accepted another position within the school board while on mat leave.

“When you’re not there anymore, you’re not so ingrained in it. It gives you perspective. It makes sense at that point to go for where your heart might be, or what else you might want, because you’re already free.”

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Though she is looking forward to starting her new job in a few months, the mother of two, who several years ago launched a company that sells baby products, says she is hoping to grow her business to the point where she is able to stay home with the kids.

For Sara, who requested to be identified by her first name only for this article, having another child — and time to think about her next move — has been truly transformative.

“I wouldn’t say it’s like a mid-life crisis, but there is some sort of crisis happening, because it completely shifts you as a person and your priorities,” she said. “I feel like I’m at my end of my teens, when I was trying to figure out who I wanted to be.”

A year away from the office — and a new baby at home — can also change the way women are perceived by their superiors.


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