Having children is an expensive business, but not for businesses

mother and child on cargo bicycle in copenhagen

Having parents on the payroll didn’t bring down their employers. Photograph: mura/Getty Images

Kids cost a fortune to those of us foolish enough to have them. They’re also not cheap for the state since we worked out that educating them is a good idea.

But what about the cost to businesses, at least in terms of parental leave? Those costs are central to debates about maternity and paternity leave policies. But new research says those costs are “small at best”. The study dug into evidence from Denmark and examined the usual worries about parental leave – that firms will struggle without the worker or that their colleagues will be stressed by filling the gap.

The authors tracked specific employers and employees to see what happened to the former when the latter procreated. The findings are clear cut. Firms saw very little change in the number of hours of work done because they were usually able to respond by hiring temporary staff or increasing the hours of existing employees. Colleagues didn’t seem particularly overworked and there was no effect on the number of sick days taken.

Overall, having an employee on parental leave had little impact on wage costs, sales or the firm’s likelihood of survival.

Obviously, this was specific to Denmark’s (very generous) system. In Britain, many firms do face costs from offering more than the statutory minimum maternity pay but the study should ease the fears of any business dreading a Brexit baby boom.

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