This study sheds light on the return-to-job of female employees after first birth based on exceptional longitudinal data from personnel records of a large German company. Our empirical analysis investigates a number of pertinent hypotheses regarding the return- to-job from a management perspective. We investigate to what extent data available to the management allow to predict the return-to-job of female employees in maternity leave (ML) after first birth. Specifically, we investigate whether good matches result in a higher and quicker return-to-job because management should be most interested in the return of these employees. Another hypothesis to be investigated suggests that a return to a part-time job during ML is associated with a higher incidence of a return-to-job after the end of ML and more stable employment afterwards. Furthermore, we investigate the career development before birth in comparison to female employees not having a child. Our empirical analysis estimates the determinants of the cumulative incidence of exits to different states. The results show that predicting the return-to-job of female employees after first birth is a major challenge for management in a situation with long ML coverage. A large fraction of mothers never returns or has a second child during ML or shortly after return-to-job. Also, female employees have their first child, when their careers have been particularly successful in comparison. On average, these are the female employees management would like to have to return soon to their job. Having to replace these employees during the long ML phase implies high costs for the company and reducing the uncertainty regarding the return-to-job, is of great importance for management. Furthermore, after a long ML duration, a company may not be interested any more in the return-to-job. Our results suggest that a sizeable fraction of mothers with a successful career before first birth does not continue to advance their career and many do not even return to their job. In addition, our findings show that the relative wage position, higher tenure, and an above average frequency of previous promotions show a positive association with the return-to-job and the stability of employment after return. These indicators can be used by management to predict the return-to-job. Furthermore, our results suggest that part-time work during ML is an useful way to reduce potential family-work-conflicts resulting in a higher return-to-job and higher employment stability after return.

Fitzenberger, Bernd, Susanne Steffes and Anthony Strittmatter (2010), Return-to-Job During and After Maternity Leave, ZEW Discussion Paper No. 10-103, Mannheim. Download


Fitzenberger, Bernd
Steffes, Susanne
Strittmatter, Anthony


female employees, maternity leave, match quality, personnel data