Support #1895

Parental leave histories

Added by Emily Humphreys 5 months ago. Updated 5 months ago.

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I'm hoping to find a way to construct a dataset listing paternity and maternity leave uptake (yes/no) and durations for Understanding Society respondents and would like to ask your advice on the feasibility of this.

From my understanding, there are three places in which maternity or paternity leave might have been reported:
1) w_jbstat could be reported as 'maternity leave' for all respondents
2) w_matlv could be reported (alongside the associated date variables) for respondents in continuous employment since their last interview, who were explicitly asked about their leave-taking
3) w_nxtstelse or w_nextelse(n) could be reported as 'maternity/paternity leave' (alongside associated date variables) for respondents not in continuous employment since their last interview

The w_matlv variable is complete for a higher proportion of new dads in later waves. I have seen that a previous User Support enquiry response mentioned a plan to change the universe for this question from Wave 9, which might explain the increase, but it does not appear from the questionnaire that this happened. (If not, I am wondering whether another possible explanation could be the ageing cohort of panel members, resulting in a higher proportion being in stable employment and this a higher proportion being eligible to be asked the question about leave, which I will look into).

I have also found very few people reporting maternity leave through w_jbstat or w_nextelse(n) if they have not already reported it via w_matlv. My interpretation is that in many cases this would be because they either did not need or were not eligible for leave, and therefore did not take it, but in some cases it could be because they did not consider reporting their leave as a change of employment status, which might particularly be the case if it was for a short period.

My questions for you are:
1) Is my interpretation of the questionnaire logic correct about these three possible ways of reporting leave?
2) Was the eligibility to be asked the w_matlv questions changed between waves?
3) Am I correct in thinking that it is possible that some maternity/paternity leave patterns could be unreported through nxtstelse/nextelse?
4) If I am right about 3), can you give me any advice about how others have managed this? I am considering whether to try to find a way to impute it; whether to narrow my research question to the population of people who were in continuous employment and exclude those who were not asked the w_matlv question; or whether to take the data at face value and carry out my analysis assuming that all leave has been reported (perhaps with a sensitivity test which excludes them).

Thank you very much for your help



Updated by Understanding Society User Support Team 5 months ago

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Thank you for your email.

We aim to respond to simple queries within 48 hours and more complex issues within 7 working days.

We are keen to hear about any data issues and experiences that you have as this will help us build the best possible knowledge database for the UKHLS and BHPS data sets.

Best wishes,
Understanding Society User Support Team


Updated by Understanding Society User Support Team 5 months ago

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Regarding q1, it seems that you have already covered most possible scenarios as w_jbstat inquires about your current employment status, w_matlv asks about past events, and w_nxtstelse asks about activities you are engaged in if you are not employed. One more variable is jboffy, it can possibly capture some people whom you haven’t captured using all the other questions However, you could consider adding w_matleave, but keep in mind that this information is only available for female respondents and is available only from wave 3 onwards. When you check how the matleave is created, you will see that it uses all the variables identified above. It is available in the pdfs of the questionnaires, I’m pasting it below:

If (DEMOGRAPHICS.jbstat = 5) Compute MatLeave = 1;
Else If (ANNUALEVENTHISTORY.matlv = 3) Compute MatLeave = 1;
Else If (ANNUALEVENTHISTORY.NxtStElse = 3 & ANNUALEVENTHISTORY.CStat = 2) Compute MatLeave = 1;
Compute MatLeave = 1;
Else If (CURRENTEMPLOYMENT.Jboffy = 1) Compute MatLeave = 1;
Else compute MatLeave = 0;

Regarding q2, it is important to note that the universe to which the question is asked has changed since Wave 9. Before that, it was necessary to be employed with the same employer (JbSamR = 1), but from Wave 9 onwards, it is only necessary to have been continuously employed since the last interview. Additionally, Wave 12 includes information on furlough and temporarily laid off/short-term working. You can verify the universe by reviewing the questionnaire modules at

Regarding q3, I checked this with the questionnaire team and they think the questions in UKHLS cover the topic well. The majority of people on maternity/paternity leave should be captured by matlv – to be eligible, one needs to be employed what is reflected in the question’s universe. That is most probably why you’re not getting a lot of additional respondents who took m/paternity leave from other questions. It is always possible that different people understand the same questions differently (and the terminology around these leaves is a bit tricky), the role of questions asking about m/paternity leave than other matlv is to capture such cases. However, this also depends on your definition of m/paternity leave, if it’s a more restricted legal definition than perhaps matlv captures it best. Additionally, to make it clearer what kind of leave exactly the respondent took, in wave 13 a new version of matlv will be introduced. It will cover options like e.g. adoption leave, share parental leave.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
UKHLS User Support


Updated by Emily Humphreys 5 months ago

Thank you Piotr, this is very helpful

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