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Labour pain: For moms on parental leave, wages lag

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Author: 
Abma, Derek
Publication Date: 
12 Oct 2010
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Parenthood is a costly endeavour that goes beyond paying for basics like food, clothing, shelter and education, particularly for mothers who take maternity leave, according to a report released Tuesday.

TD Economics says mothers who have taken time off for parental leave face a consistent wage gap of about three per cent for every year of absence. The difference is proportionally more severe for mothers who have taken multiple leaves.

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"The research leads us to conclude that exits from the labour force -- most often related to family or motherhood, not gender -- are the culprit behind this unexplained wage gap," said TD deputy chief economist Beata Caranci, one of the report's authors.

Depreciation of skills is thought to be one factor why mothers who take parental leaves would see smaller salaries, TD said. But economists behind the study also said employers are using the frequency of parental leaves as a signal for how committed women are to their jobs.

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The scenario of lower pay after maternity leave rings true for 36-year-old Ottawa lawyer Megan Cornell. She's taken leave from her practice for both her children, who are aged three and almost two. She estimated she's making 25 to 30 per cent less than what she would be getting had it not been for her parental leaves.

"I think each (mat leave) probably set me back probably a year, even though I wasn't actually gone an entire year," Cornell said, adding she took about half a year off for each child.

Despite this, Cornell said she's not being unfairly discriminated against. She said salaries at her law firm, Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall, reflect the amount of business each lawyer brings in. Cornell said her time away had the predictable effect of interrupting her own process of building a client base.

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The TD study says employers cannot afford to discourage working moms from the labour force, given the worker shortage expected to result in the coming years because of Canada's aging population.

"With a significant portion of the skilled labour force in Canada retiring over the next 10 years, employers will need to do all they can to attract and retain highly skilled women, including mothers," said TD senior economist Pascal Gauthier, another co-author of the report.

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- reprinted from Postmedia News

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Entered Date: 
13 Oct 2010
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