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Pregnancy and parental leave during the Tenure Track

Petition handing to minister Bussemaker and to the VSNU

In the Netherlands, there are currently no formal regulations on the effect of the time away from research during pregnancy and paternal leave. Pregnancy and paternal leave are dealt with at a case-by-case basis. When an extension of the tenure track is not granted, a new parent loses previous time. In a recent column in the Dutch newspaper, de Volkskrant, this problem was discussed. Worst case: if a post-doc gets a temporary contract of 1 year, and is away for 4 months on pregnancy leave, this person loses at least 1/3rd of precious research time. But that is not the only time a researcher loses – if you factor in the time before, during, and after of a pregnancy, more time is lost…

A pregnancy on average takes away a full year of research, if you factor in the pregnancy leave time, the resting allowance for dealing with fatigue during pregnancy under the Dutch law (1 hour per working day during the whole pregnancy), the feeding time (2 hours per working day until the baby is 9 months old), and the fact that most new parents will work 80-90% during the first year (or longer). For researchers in a lab that deals with chemical substances, where for health and security reasons pregnant women can’t work, a researcher loses even more precious time. In that case, the researcher will lose almost all of the research time if she is on a one-year post-doc contract.

In other countries, such as the United States, the tenure clock for women is stopped by default for one year for every child born during the TT period. Therefore, a group of dutch academics are calling for a reform of the regulations on pregnancy and parental leave during the TT period. More information about the proposed reforms can be found on the website of the Dutch TT Reform.

With the quest for the reforms, comes a petition. The official text of the petition reads as follows:
I support the recommendations to provide tenure-trackers a standard option of extending her/his tenure track decision and contract by 12 months in the case of a mother or by the duration of parental leave in the case of a father, for each child born/adopted. It is up to the tenure-tracker to make use of this (full) extension or not, but the opportunity should be provided to all tenure-trackers equally. These recommendations are in line with current policy at the ERC and NWO.
You can sign the petition here.

Moreover, if you are working in a Dutch university and your case of pregnancy and parenting weren’t handled well, you can share your stories anonymously with Wioletta Ruszel (w.m.ruszel at tudelft dot nl) for the black book. This black book will compile anonymous stories as policy makers are very sensitive to this.

Update of July 7th 2017 – I just received the following email:

Dear signer of our petition,

We are very happy to tell you that per August 1st the Executive Board of TU Delft has decided to implement our recommendation “to provide tenure-trackers a standard option of extending her/his tenure track decision and contract by 12 months in the case of a mother or by the duration of parental leave in the case of a father, for each child born”. The press release specifically mentions our petition, so we take this opportunity to thank you for signing!

The press release says:

“TU Delft brings more flexibility in its Tenure Track to remove obstacles, particularly being experienced by women, surrounding parenthood and parental leave. That is positive for women’s perspectives, and beneficial to young parents.

It has been found that a significant part of the Tenure Trackers have this need. This was underlined in a petition signed by scientists from all over The Netherlands, which was presented to the Minister of OC&W (Education, Culture and Science) during last year’s VSNU Gender Seminar.

Given the constraints on temporary employment relationships in the law and the cao of the Dutch universities (cao NU), TU Delft has now developed a solution for this. As a result, Tenure Trackers’ appointment periods will take into account circumstances such as getting children and parental leave for both women and men. From 1 August 2017, a provision will be entered in the appointment terms which may lead to an extended appointment period, up to 8 years. The purpose of this is to be able to delay the final assessment date. A transitional measure for Tenure Trackers that joined TU Delft on or after 1 August 2013 will be put in place.”

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