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Maternity and paternity rights and women returners survey

Family in kitchen
Published: June 2011


This survey provides a compelling analysis of how parents have responded to government initiatives to help families to balance work and family caring responsibilities and to give children the best start in life, and specifically to the Work and Families Act 2006. 

It was expected that the Work and Families Act 2006 would result in more women being able to return to work.


In 2008, despite women taking substantially longer maternity leave than in 2006, the return to work rate was almost identical to that of 2006. The proportion of mothers returning to the same employer also remained the same.

77% of mothers returned to work within 12-18 months after the birth of their baby in 2008. The vast majority of them returned to a job with the same employer.

In the space of two years between 2006 and 2008, the mean length of maternity leave taken by mothers increased from 32 weeks to 39 weeks. 

When comparing results from the 2007 and 2009/10 surveys, it’s clear that increase in the period of the Statutory Maternity Pay and Maternity Allowance has helped to reduce the difference between women in the amount of leave they take. In particular, it was the less well-off mothers who were able to increase their leave the most.

The study also revealed that most fathers (nine out of ten) took time off work after the birth of their baby to be with their partner and new born. In addition to this two-thirds of fathers took time off before birth to attend ante-natal appointments with their partner.  However, our findings also indicated that financial considerations could hold some fathers back from taking longer leave or taking leave altogether.


Just over 2,000 face-to-face interviews were conducted with mothers with children aged between 12 and 18 months in Autumn 2009 and Autumn 2010. Their partners were contacted by telephone, with 1,253 responding to the survey.

The results of the 2009/10 survey complement the previous 2007 report, with comparisons of the results from both surveys being used to establish recent trends.

Read the report