Maternity provision, contract status, and likelihood of returning to work: Evidence from research intensive universities in the UK

Joanna M. Davies*, Lisa Jane Brighton, Florence Reedy, Sabrina Bajwah

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Reliance on fixed-term contracts and a lack of adequate maternity provision for fixed-term workers could be contributing to the loss of women from academia―the so called “leaky pipeline”―but evidence on this is lacking. This paper describes variation, between research intensive universities in the UK, in the maternity provision they offer to fixed-term workers and presents preliminary staff data on the likelihood of returning to work following a period of maternity leave for academic and non-academic staff on fixed-term versus open-ended contracts. A gendered lens is applied, investigating how the intersection between contractual status and maternity provision contributes to gender inequality in academia within the context of hierarchical neoliberal academic organizing and the masculinized “ideal” academic. Staff data was obtained using a Freedom of Information request made to the 24 Russell Group universities in the United Kingdom. The odds of returning to work after maternity leave were 59% lower for staff on fixed-term compared to open-ended contracts (pooled odds ratio: 0.41, 95% confidence interval: 0.26–0.64). Maternity provision for fixed-term workers varied between institutions, with most operating policies that limit access to enhanced maternity pay for staff on fixed-term contracts. Wider adoption of maternity policies that are more compatible with employment on fixed-term contracts, including: no continuous service or return to work requirement, full financial support for staff facing redundancy during maternity leave, and appropriate signposting of redeployment obligations, could help to support more women to stay in academia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1495-1510
Number of pages16
JournalGender, Work and Organization
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • casualized labor
  • gender inequality
  • maternity leave
  • research intensive
  • Russell Group
  • university employment


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