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Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y EmpresarialesFacultad de Ciencias Económicas y Empresariales

Parental leave use

Financiado por
Dirección General de Investigación Científica del Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación

Meil Landwerlin, Gerardo


Research on how people balance their private, family, and personal lives has flourished in recent years. Great advances have been made in the scientific knowledge concerning this social problem, but there are quite a few shortcomings, some of which this researcher wants to tackle. The existing research lacks information and analysis about the social use of a parental leave from work, the focus of this research project. It is not known whether the target population is aware of the existence and characteristics of the different parental leave programs to which they have right to apply. We also lack scientific information about the decision-making process one uses before applying for parental leave. Do couples perform a cost-benefit analysis or study the advantages and disadvantages before making the decision to take a parental leave? Under what circumstances do men take advantage of the parental leave system, and why are women the ones who most often use it? Furthermore, it is relevant to analyze the experience of the individuals who have taken the different types of parental leave, particularly the reaction of colleagues and bosses in the workplace and the consequences related to family dynamics, a person’s career, and his or her quality of life. The research project has a normative dimension in the sense that it will conclude with recommendations for the improvement of the functioning of the parental leave system. The analysis will be based on 20 in-depth interviews with both men and women who are taking parental leave at the time of the interview, as well as people who took parental leave in the past. The analysis of the in-depth interviews will be used to design a representative survey of 1.000 people of working age (25 to 54) living in Spain. To come up with a sufficient database that can be used for a differentiated analyses of the experience of people who have taken parental leave, this population will be oversampled in order to get a minimum of 400  survey respondents.


The study will focus on the following issues:

Main research area 1: Phenomenology of the social use of the parental leave

The first objective is to identify whether people are aware that different parental leave options are available, the circumstances under which one can apply for this benefit, and the costs associated with each type. Another central focal point of the research project is to obtain detailed data on what type of parental leave is most often used, the length of time it was employed, and under what terms. For example, was maternity leave shared by spouses and for how long? After workers got the right to reduce working hours, how many hours did they use? What reasons do eligible people give for not taking advantage of parental leave? Further, it seeks to identify the socio-economic profile and labor conditions of people who have taken advntage of parental leave (gender, nationality, educational level, family size, income level, type of employment, position in the hierarchy, labor sector of activity, etc.) and distinguish the different kinds of leave. Another aspect the research will address is to analyze the social conditions under which men take advantage of parental leave, in particular to discover whether it is related to the patterns of the division of work in the household and the gender policies implemented by their employers.

Main research area 2: Analysis of the decision process regarding taking a parental leave

One key aspect to be analyzed in the context of the emergence of the “negotiating family” is whether there is really a negotiating process among partners about the decision to take advantage of parental leave or whether both partners assume that only women have to evaluate whether it is worthwhile to take it or not. The research will focus on which pros and cons are considered relevant when making the decision and especially factoring the working conditions, the attitude of the employer, and the workplace climate. Special attention will be given to the circumstances under which men make use of parental leave. Further, it will analyze how couples weigh alternatives for balancing their family and working lives when children are born, in particular care by other family members such as grandmothers, day care centers, or house maids. The analysis will then focus on the working, economic, and family conditions that facilitate the use of parental leave.

Main research area 3:  Analysis of the consequences of taking parental leave for those who have professional careers, particularly their family life and quality of life.

This part of the research is devoted to the analysis of the advantages and disadvantages as well as the global balance among people who have taken parental leave. Special attention will be paid to how taking a leave affects a person’s working conditions and professional career. Do they lose employment?  Is their salary reduced or do they lose salary supplements or social benefits? Does taking a leave have negative effects on a person’s working conditions? Have they lost professional competence or decision-making power? Were they forced to change their workplace, or did they lose the chance to be promoted? The attitudes of their workmates and department heads will also be evaluated. In the family domain, the analysis will focus on the effects of parental leave on conjugal relationships, in particular whether conflict among partners has decreased and satisfaction with the partner has increased and whether taking a parental leave fosters a traditional view of the division of housework and childcare among partners. Further, the impact on subjective well-being will be measured in order to discover whether parental leave increases the participants’ subjective evaluation of their quality of life. The analysis will be differentiated by type of parental leave in order to identify whether reduced working hours have fewer negative effects than full-time leaves and to evaluate the impact of the newly introduced paternity leave. Another dimension of the analysis will be to find out whether the consequences for people who take advantage of parental leave are less negative when companies have formal family-friendly and gender policies.


Prof. Gerardo Meil, Dr. Luis Ayuso Sánchez (Universidad de Málaga), Dr. Cristina García Sanz (UAM), Dr. Mª Angeles Luque (UAM), Dr. Jesús Rogero (UAM), Dr. Dafne Muntañola (Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona) and Pedro Romero (Doctoral candidate, UAM)



In English:

Escobedo, A. y Meil, G. (2012): Spain” en International Review on Leave Policies and Related Research 2012, disponible en http://www.leavenetwork.org/lp_and_r_reports/review_2012/

Romero-Balsas, P.; Muntanyola-Saura, D. y Rogero-García, J. (2013): Decision-Making Factors Within Paternity and Parental Leaves: Why Spanish Fathers Take Time Off from Work, en Gender, Work and Organization, 20, pp.678-609 DOI: 10.1111/gwao.12004

Romero-Balsas, P. (2012): Fathers Taking Paternity Leave in Spain: Which Characteristics Foster and Which Hampers the Use of Paternity Leave en Sociologia e Politiche Sociali, Special Issue. Vol. 15 pp.105-130

Meil, G. (2013), European men's use of parental leave and their involvement in child care and housework, Journal of Comparative Family Studies, vol. XLIV, 5, 557-570

Escobedo, A.; Meil, G. Y Lapuerta, I. (2014), „Spain“ in Moss, P. (ed.), International Review of Leave Policies and Related Research 2012, International Network of Leave Policies and Related Research, available in http://www.leavenetwork.org (30/12/2014)

Meil, G. y Rogero-García, J.(2015): Does paternal childcare replace grandparental support in the work - family balance? en Family Science, 6, 1, pp 31-37 doi 10.1080/19424620.2015.1009934

Escobedo, A.; Meil, G. (2016), “Paternité et congés parentaux en France et en Espagne“» en Agnes Martial (ed), Pères en solitaire ? Ruptures conjugales et paternité contemporaine, Presses de l’Université de Provence, Collection Penser le genre, Aix-en-Provence, pp 175-187 (http://presses-universitaires.univ-amu.fr/peres-solitaire)

Meil, G., Romero-Balsas, P. y Rogero-García, J.(2017), “Why parents take unpaid parental leave. Evidence from Spain” in Vida Cesnuiytè, Detlev Lück and Eric D. Widmer (eds), Family Continuity and Change. Comtemporary European Perspectives, Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-59028-2, pp 247-270

Meil, G., Romero-Balsas, P., Rogero-García, J. (2018). Parental Leave in Spain: Use, Motivations and Implications. Revista Española de Sociología, 27, Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.22325/fes/res.2018.32 (special issue on gender equality and leave use edited by G. Meil and A. Escobedo).

In Spanish

Muntanyola-Saura, D.;  Romero-Balsas, P.;  Rogero-García, J. (2011) : ¿Un derecho o un deber? Los hombres españoles ante los permisos para el cuidado de sus hijos. En Mª Ángeles Durán (dir.). El trabajo del cuidado en América Latina y España. Fundación Carolina-CeALCI. Madrid. ISSN (versión impresa): 1885-866-X

Meil, G. (2011), “El uso de los permisos parentales por los hombres y su implicación en el cuidado de los niños en Europa” en Revista Latina de Sociología, 1, pp.61-97, de libre acceso en http://revistalatinadesociologia.com

Meil, G. y Rogero-García, J. (2014): Abuelos y padres en el cuidado de los niños en Cuaderno de Relaciones Laborales, Vol. 32, núm.1

Romero-Balsas, Pedro (2015). «Consecuencias del permiso de paternidad en el reparto de tareas y cuidados en la pareja». Revista Española de Investigaciones Sociológicas, 149: 87-110. (http://dx.doi.org/10.5477/cis/reis.149.87)

Meil, G.; Romero-Balsas, P (2016), “Los permisos parentales para el cuidado de niños: percepción social y usos de los mismos entre los padres y las madres” en Tamayo, Silvia (ed), “La maternidad y la paternidad en el s. XXI”, Granada: editorial Comares, pp. 235-258




Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Empresariales  · C/ Francisco Tomás y Valiente, 5 · Universidad Autónoma de Madrid · 28049 Madrid · España