Paid Parental Leave and Family-friendly Policies

An Evidence Brief


Research has documented that children’s experiences and exposures during their early years play a critical role in shaping their chances for long-term health and well-being. While parents need time, access to resources and support services to be able to provide nurturing care during early childhood and beyond, infancy is a particularly vulnerable period. Paid parental leave provides working parents with time off from work around the birth or adoption of a child with replacement of some or all of their usual earnings. Parental leave provides parents with time to care for and bond with their infant, establish routines for feeding and care, and attend to their medical care needs, while also providing mothers who have been through childbirth time to recover physically.

There is strong evidence that among the most effective strategies for supporting healthy development are increasing exclusive breastfeeding, adequate nutritional intake, and on-time immunization during infancy. In 2000, the importance of parental leave was recognized in International Labour Organization Convention (ILO) 183, which calls for 14 weeks of leave for mothers of infants. The accompanying Recommendation 191 calls for 18 weeks. This brief consists of a review of the evidence on the impact of breastfeeding and adequate nutrition, and the receipt of immunizations to infant health, as well as whether paid parental leave can raise the rates of each, thereby supporting healthy early childhood development. It also includes a review of global trends in the provision of paid parental leave and recommendations for governments and the private sector.

Files available for download