It's a common scenario: Mothers and fathers in the workplace worrying that taking parental leave will diminish how others view their commitment to their jobs—so they don’t fully utilize parental leave opportunities. A recent study, spearheaded by Dr. Richard J. Petts, professor of Sociology at Ball State University, examines if and how workplace leave policies affect perceived job commitment.

The results and findings of this survey-experiment based study are in the research paper—“Organizational Policies, Workplace Culture, and Perceived Job Commitment of Mothers and Fathers Who Take Parental Leave”—published Oct. 8 online by the journal Social Science Research. Dr. Petts, the lead writer of the paper, believes this study can inform policymakers and companies about development of effective leave policies which could boost the likelihood that workers will be able to take necessary leave without feeling as if they would be harming their careers.

“While there is often much focus on increasing access to paid leave—particularly in the U.S., given the lack of paid leave policy—there is much less attention on the culture surrounding paid leave,” Dr. Petts said. “Paid leave policies only provide benefits if people use these policies and are not penalized for doing so. This study was motivated by wanting to understand the culture surrounding leave-taking and to identify what kinds of leave policies may help shift the culture so that workers would be more accepted for taking leave.” 

Dr. Petts conducted this study and co-authored the paper with two other sociologists: Dr. Gayle Kaufman of Davidson College, and Dr. Trenton Mize of Purdue University. 

An active scholar on parental leave policies, Dr. Petts has been quoted or had his work cited by numerous publications and broadcasts—including The New York Times, and USA Today—regarding his insights, research and findings on topics such as parental leave, and equitable sharing of child caregiving responsibilities between opposite-gender parents. He co-authored several articles on various related topics, including one titled, “To Keep Women in the Workforce, Men Need to Do More at Home,” which was published in the Harvard Business Review.Dr. Petts also discussed paternity leave issues as a guest on the BYU national radio show, “Top of Mind with Julie Rose” (segment air date: May 26, 2021).