Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 200–208 | Cite as

Work–Family Balance After Childbirth: The Association Between Employer-Offered Leave Characteristics and Maternity Leave Duration

  • Sylvia GuendelmanEmail author
  • Julia Goodman
  • Martin Kharrazi
  • Maureen Lahiff


Early return to work after childbirth has been increasing among working mothers in the US. We assessed the relationship between access to employer-offered maternity leave (EOML) (both paid and unpaid) and uptake and duration of maternity leave following childbirth in a socio-economically diverse sample of full-time working women. We focus on California, a state that has long provided more generous maternity leave benefits than those offered by federal maternity leave policies through the State Disability Insurance program. The sample included 691 mothers who gave birth in Southern California in 2002–2003. Using weighted logistic regression, we examined the EOML-maternity leave duration relationship, controlling for whether the leave was paid, as well as other occupational, personality and health-related covariates. Compared with mothers who were offered more than 12 weeks of maternity leave, mothers with <6 weeks of EOML and those offered 6–12 weeks had five times higher odds of returning to work within 12 weeks; those offered no leave had six times higher odds of an early return. These relationships were similar after controlling for whether the leave was paid and after controlling for other occupational and health characteristics. Access to and duration of employer-offered maternity leave significantly determine timing of return to work following childbirth, potentially affecting work–family balance. Policy makers should recognize the pivotal role of employers in offering job security during and after maternity leave and consider widening the eligibility criteria of the Family and Medical Leave Act.


Maternity leave Employer offered leave Paid leave Financial strain Work–family policies 



Family and Medical Leave Act


California State Disability Insurance


Employer offered maternity leave


Preterm delivery


Low birth weight


Odds ratio


Confidence interval


Paid family leave



Grant sponsor: Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Division of Research, Training and Education; Grant Number: R40MV00305-01. Grant sponsor: NIH; Grant Number: R24MH081797, “Socioeconomic and Neuro-Endocrine Determinants of Perinatal Complications.” Grant sponsor: NICHD; Grant Number: HD07275. We wish to thank Shayla Livingston for her help with the literature review.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sylvia Guendelman
    • 1
    Email author
  • Julia Goodman
    • 2
  • Martin Kharrazi
    • 3
  • Maureen Lahiff
    • 4
  1. 1.Maternal and Child Health Program, Division of Community Health and Human Development, School of Public HealthUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Health Services and Policy Analysis Program, School of Public HealthUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  3. 3.Genetic Disease Screening ProgramCalifornia Department of Public HealthRichmondUSA
  4. 4.Division of Biostatistics, School of Public HealthUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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