A new policy at the University of Arizona will give employees up to six weeks of paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child.

The new parental leave policy was born from input from employees through the UA’s Campaign for Common Sense, which allows employees to offer suggestions and ideas about new and existing policies and practices.

Employees suggested a paid-leave option and several hundred supported the proposal during a request for input from employees, said Allison Vaillancourt, vice president of human resources and institutional effectiveness.

Employees are eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid leave through the Family Medical Leave Act and before the new policy was adopted, new parents could use their earned sick or vacation time to be compensated during their time off.

The new policy is meant to alleviate financial hardships and productivity issues new parents face and to attract new employees. Some faculty members, because of their schedules, don’t get vacation time, Vaillancourt said.

She said some employees could not get paid time off when they were away “so it was a financial hardship for them to take time away to be with new babies,” she said. “And some people were coming back before they were really ready to come back, so that was a productivity issue.”

Other employers and universities that do offer paid parental leave made it difficult to attract new faculty candidates, she said.

Arizona State University has offered employees the paid benefit for several years, she said. Northern Arizona University does not offer the paid parental leave.

“We really take being a family-friendly employer to heart,” Vaillancourt said. “We have a lot of programs and services that are supportive of families, and so this was a logical next step.”

About 160 UA employees take FMLA absences for the birth or adoption of a child each year, Vaillancourt said.

The new policy will affect benefits-eligible employees who have worked for the UA for at least one year before the start of the requested leave. The paid leave can be taken only once during a 12-month period. The paid leave must run concurrently with FMLA leave.

Under the new policy, leave would be paid through the employee’s department.

“It’s really a cost-neutral benefit because people would have been being paid anyway,” Vaillancourt said.

Contact reporter Veronica Cruz at vcruz@azstarnet.com or 573-4224.