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Few postdocs have access to family leave

by Andrea Widener
July 3, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 27

Postdoctoral scholars who are also parents face an uphill battle to remain engaged in academia, according to a new survey from the National Postdoctoral Association and the University of Californias Hastings College of the Law. In previous decades, postdocs might have postponed having children until after they completed their studies. With the average postdoc position now lasting four to five years, many don’t want to wait to have families because of fertility concerns, the study shows. But postdocs often fall into a gray zone where they do not get the benefits available to full-time employees. Most institutions—53%—reported that they do not provide paid maternity leave to postdocs, the study shows, and some don’t provide access to unpaid time off. Sixty percent of postdoc parents didn’t ask for time off because they feared professional repercussions. Of those who did, 20% reported that pregnancy negatively impacted their academic appointments, a figure which includes some who were fired or quit. The issue disproportionately affects women, but men were also negatively affected by the lack of paternity leave, both paid and unpaid, the survey shows.


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