Employee Postdoc Leave Benefits in the U.S.


These charts augment a mini-series of blog posts examining the enormous variation in U.S. postdoc leave benefits. While most postdocs do not consider benefits packages when choosing a position, the benefits available can greatly affect quality of life, and sometimes mean the difference between staying in academia and leaving it especially for caregivers and those with chronic health conditions. I surveyed 21 U.S. universities with highly ranked ecology programs (according to The Chronical of Higher Education and U.S. News and World Report) and the U.S. federal government by looking up employee postdoc benefit information on their webpages, and present the data here. Blog readers have also posted leave policies with which they are familiar and I update these charts to reflect that data, as well.


Blog posts:

Postdoc leave policies

Postdoc parental leave policies, part 1

Postdoc parental leave policies, part 2

Postdoc parental leave policies, part 3

Parental leave, beyond the numbers

Plumbing advice for the leaky pipeline



General leave

Vacation and personal leave

Sick leave

Bereavement leave

Family leave

Short term disability

Paid maternity leave

Paid paternity and adoption leave

Job-protected unpaid leave



Example maternity leave


I did the research for these tables and graphs while I was at home on paid maternity leave from Harvard, while my baby slept on my lap. The fact that so many of my female friends and colleagues struggle with making motherhood compatible with a science career strikes me as a real problem that needs addressing. My hope is that awareness of university leave policies will both give parents-to-be the information they need in choosing compatible postdoctoral positions, as well as promote stronger policies at the university level.


Margaret Kosmala

December 2014


A footnote: I did all my research online by probing through institutional policy pages and documents. I did not talk to any HR reps. Sometimes I was not able to discern whether a particular policy applied to postdocs or not, because postdocs can be classified as regular employees or in a special category by themselves. Sometimes I had to do some interpretation, because policies were vague. The results I present are my best attempt to understand the policies at these institutions as of July 2014. They may change. (I hope so!) Please let me know if you find errors or if there are policy changes by adding a comment to any of the above blog posts.