As of Jan. 1, 2019, all full time benefited staff members at the University of Utah will be able to take 12 weeks of parental leave, six of which they will be paid 50 percent of their regular salary. The paid six weeks can be used by staff intermittently and at any time within the first year after the birth or adoption of a child. The child must be born or adopted after Jan. 1.
Previously, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) required that all institutions offer full-time staff a 12 week parental leave period, but employers were not required to provide pay during this time. FMLA time can be used if a staff member experiences extreme illness, or wants to take time off to bond with a new child after a birth or adoption. FMLA also prevents employers from firing workers during their leave.
“We feel like we want to be leaders in that area of providing some paid parental leave for our University of Utah staff members,” says Jeff Herring, chief human resources officer for the U. Herring has been an active participant in the process to create and advance this new university policy.
This new university policy is a huge step for the institution and its staff members. Work began in 2015 with a subcommittee of the University Staff Council. They wanted to better the lives of their fellow employees. Time was dedicated to research, drafting proposals and discussing the new policy with university administrators. Previously, staff members at the university using FMLA time would take sick time first and then vacation time for the rest of their 12 allotted weeks when on parental leave.
“We’re not unique in this,” Herring said. He noted that many other institutions are also working on measures to better parental leave, including fellow Pac-12 members and local Utah businesses.
“We think that it will lead to greater productivity, greater presenteeism,” Herring said. “When there’s stress on the personal life it translates to stress in the professional life.”
As the policy takes effect, Herring says that there will be continued discussions. The first step is monitoring the use, cost and funding for the program. After that, they will analyze how the program is working, any changes that need to be made and the possibility of expansion in the future.
“This has significant implications for our staff and our administration, and for the University’s budget,” Herring said.
The new policy will not only affect tenured staff but will provide corresponding staff with parental leave as well. Herring is optimistic about the effects of the new policy for staff members.