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Access to Parental Leave Varies

Whether or not postdocs who are new parents get time off varies by their funding source and their principal investigator, Nature News reports.

A group from the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law surveyed 741 postdocs in the US, both men and women, about parental leave. They also queried the postdoctoral affairs offices of 66 universities.

Postdocs who were paid by an external funding source had decreased access to leave after the birth or adoption of a child, the report says. For instance, 74 percent of postdoc mothers who were externally funded had no access to paid maternity leave and 44 percent of postdoc mothers who were externally funded had no access to unpaid leave.

At the same time, PIs discouraged postdocs belonging to a minority group from taking leave — 22 percent of postdocs of Asian descent and 14 percent of members of other minority groups were discouraged by their PI, but only 10 percent of white postdocs were.

"We think about mothers being driven out of science, but there are also subgroups that are especially vulnerable," author Jessica Lee, a staff attorney at Hastings, tells Nature News. "That's something that isn't really being raised in a lot of the conversation about this."

Paternity leave was even less common than maternal leave, according to the report. Sixty-one percent of institutional postdocs and 85 percent of externally funded postdoc had no access to paid paternity leave, it found.