Study: Leave practices of parents after the birth or adoption of young children, July 2012

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In 2010/2011, the vast majority (90%) of Canadian children aged 1 to 3 living outside Quebec had working mothers who took some type of leave following the birth of their child. On average, the leave lasted 44 weeks.

About 26% of these children had working fathers who took leave; their average leave was 2.4 weeks.

For some parents, this was a combination of paid and unpaid leave.

About 83% of children had mothers who reported that they took paid leave, and 21% had mothers who reported unpaid leave. The average length of paid leave was 40 weeks, while the average for unpaid leave was 4.5 weeks.

The situation was different in Quebec. Among children living in Quebec who had working mothers, almost all (99%) had a mother who took some form of leave. On average, this leave lasted 48 weeks. Quebec has its own parental benefits program—the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan—which differs from the Canada Employment Insurance Program available in other provinces and territories.

About 97% of children living in Quebec had mothers who reported that they took paid leave, while 21% reported unpaid leave. Among all children, a slightly higher proportion of those in Quebec (72%) had mothers who worked after the birth or adoption than those in the rest of Canada (67%).

Fathers took leave in the case of about three-quarters (76%) of children in Quebec. Mothers of children living in Quebec took about 5 weeks more leave than their counterparts elsewhere in Canada, and fathers took about 3 weeks more than their counterparts.

A number of factors, including socio-economic and child and maternal health characteristics, were associated with whether mothers and fathers took leave and with the length of leave.

Self-employment was particularly relevant. Both mothers and fathers who were self-employed took shorter leaves, even after considering factors such as whether the child was first-born, the sex of the child, the mother's age, and parental education and income.

With respect to health characteristics, mothers who reported postpartum depression had higher odds of taking leave. They took significantly longer leave than mothers who did not report postpartum depression.

Note to readers

This article provides a snapshot of leave patterns using data from the Survey of Young Canadians, conducted in 2010 and 2011. The article focuses on children aged 1 to 3 whose parent(s) were working prior to their birth or adoption. The survey provides information on children and on their parents' employment at the time of the survey, as well as retrospective reports on the leave taken during the birth and postpartum periods. It includes a sample of 10,810 Canadian children aged 1 to 9 residing in the 10 provinces. Children living in Yukon, the Northwest Territories or Nunavut were excluded, as were those residing on Indian reserves. Information on leave was collected only for children aged 1 to 3 whose parents were working prior to the child's birth or adoption. Parents provided the information.

This is the final online edition of Canadian Social Trends. In future, analytical articles on changes in Canada's social and demographic fabric, and related studies, will appear on Statistics Canada's website in a new publication on social statistics. It will be available free of charge beginning in fall 2012.

The article "Leave practices of parents after the birth or adoption of young children" is now available in the July 2012 online issue of Canadian Social Trends, no. 94 (Catalogue number11-008-X, free), from the Key resource module of our website under Publications.

For more information, contact Statistics Canada's National Contact Centre (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 613-951-8116;

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Leanne Findlay (613-951-4648), Health Analysis Division.