It used to be that mostly women would take maternity leave, and in the field where I work it would be accounted for by a hiring committee. Most likely, someone would say “yeah, there is a dip in X’s scientific production during years XX-XX, but that's around the time she got 2 kids, so it's not worrying”. It might not always be put very delicately (I heard of a committee member once saying “so, let's decide in advance: how many papers is one kid worth?”), but there existed some sort of positive bias.
Nowadays, more and more fathers take parental leave (around me, it seems to be usually 6 to 12 months when the kid is young). Thus, the situation is getting more complex. How do hiring committees in academia handle these cases? Should one consider a parental leave as “lost time”, professionally speaking? Or are recruiters in academia more understanding than that?
Edit: more specifically, I'm talking about the US system. I know that standards of parental leave are more generous in Europe than in a typical “welfare is communism” country :) So, I am worried about how academic employers might react to a woman having a 2 years parental leave in her curriculum, or a father having taken a 6-month leave in the recent past.
Of course, the situation in others countries is also interesting… So please don't hesitate to leave comments!