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Introducing the network

The network has members from 35 countries – mostly in Europe, but some from beyond including Australia, Canada and the United States. They share an interest in and knowledge of leave policies and research into these policies. The network was established at a seminar held in Brussels in October 2004, organised jointly by the Flemish Government’s Centrum voor Bevolkings- en Gezinsstudie (CBGS - Population and Family Study Centre) and the Thomas Coram Research Unit (TCRU), at the Institute of Education University of London. This seminar was attended by researchers from a dozen countries, and built on earlier collaborative cross-national work with which the network coordinators – Fred Deven (from CBGS) and Peter Moss (from TCRU) - had both been involved. This collaboration began with the European Commission Childcare Network, an expert group that between 1986 and 1996 undertook studies on a range of issues related to the reconciliation of employment and family responsibilities, including leave policies. When the EC Network ended in 1996, collaboration continued, first with an international seminar convened in Brussels in 1999 that led to an edited book Parental Leave: Progress or Pitfall?; an article overviewing leave policy and research (Marriage and Family Review, special issue on Family Social Policy, 39/3-4, 2006); and then with a special issue of the journal Community, Work and Family (2002, 5/3) on the theme of leave arrangements for parents.

Aims of the network

  • The exchange of information about leave policies adopted in individual countries and by international organisations;
  • The cross-national analysis of such policies;
  • The exchange of information about research on leave policies, including findings and conclusions;
  • Providing a forum for the cross-national discussion of issues and trends in policy and research; 
  • Providing a source of regularly updated information on policies and research.

Scope of the network

The network pays particular attention to employment-related policies intended to support parents and others with care responsibilities (including for adult relatives), including: maternity, paternity and parental leaves; leave to care for sick or disabled relatives; and entitlements to work reduced hours. But it also covers policies available to the whole population to improve work/life balance, such as ‘career breaks’ and ‘time accounts’.

Within this policy domain, areas of interest include:

  • the background, rationale and implementation of policies;
  • the form they take and the assumptions and values that underlie them;
  • their use (both overall and among different sub-groups of the population) and what factors influence use;
  • their consequences (benefits and costs) for individuals, families, employers and the wider society;
  • how employers and workplaces respond to workers taking leave and manage in their absence, and
  • the relationship of leave policies to other policy areas (e.g. the provision of services for children and their families).


The basic activity of the network is an annual seminar, organised by the members of the network; and the preparation of an annual review of leave policies and research in the countries represented in the network.

Through its wide and expert membership and basic activities, the network also provides opportunities for members to develop other activities. There are many possibilities, including for example:

  • Preparation of joint publications, such as special issues of journals and edited books
  • Developing cross-national research proposals