Don’t Leave Them Out: An International Comparative Analysis of Parental Leave Policies for Multiple Family Structures




Hammoud, Zeinab

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This thesis explores how unequal social and material privileges are reinforced through seemingly progressive public policy. In a multi-national comparison, I investigate how queer families fit within parental leave policy compared to their heterosexual counterparts, the extent to which various national parental leave policies support or exclude queer families, and how Canadian leave policy can be modified to better affirm and accommodate queer families. I define queer families, or multiple family structures (MFS), as those family units whose composition is “non-normative.” Based on this context, there are two main objectives of this work: The first is to interrogate normative understandings of the family and the formation of public policy via Queer Theory by providing a theoretical overview and tracing the socio-historical significance of the family, especially throughout the development of early capitalism. The second goal is to produce an overview of parental leave policy across various comparable countries—Canada as the primary source of analysis, and the United States, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Sweden as cases for comparative analysis. This work contributes to the dearth of existing literature analyzing leave policy for MFS with a particular focus on the limits and shortcomings, as well as the seemingly best practices, of respective leave practices. I find that the extent to which MFS are accommodated for in leave policies is varied: Although queer families may be eligible for leave in these various countries, this inclusion is often limited to particular types of family units—typically those that more immediately resemble the traditional nuclear family. I conclude by posing policy suggestions based on international best practices to guide future Canadian policymaking in the direction of better accommodating “non-normative” families.