UA's new parental leave benefit is an enlightened step

2014-07-11T20:00:00Z UA's new parental leave benefit is an enlightened step Arizona Daily Star
July 11, 2014 8:00 pm

The University of Arizona has a new benefit: It will be offering employees up to six weeks of paid parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child.

What took them so long? we wondered.

And that may not have been entirely fair. It’s clear that the UA is not on the cutting edge with this enlightened new benefit, but it’s not in the Dark Ages, either.

As the UA noted in announcing the change, many other employers and universities — including Arizona State University — already offer paid parental leave, and that could make recruiting and retaining staff more difficult for UA, because it did not.

Andrea Smiley, associate vice president for communications at the UA, said administrators researched the proposed change and found that paid parental leave is “very common” among 30-plus peer research institutions, and that those that have it say it’s “a great contributor to employee morale.”

Under the new policy, UA employees with at least a year’s service — men and women alike — can take up to six weeks of paid leave after a birth or adoption.

As they could before the new policy, they also can apply unused sick leave and vacation time toward additional paid time off. And employees also are eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave through the federal Family Medical Leave Act, but under the new policy they must take FMLA time concurrently.

The new benefit was spurred by input from employees through the UA’s Campaign for Common Sense, which allows the staff to offer suggestions.

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

She told the Star’s Veronica Cruz that because some employees could not get paid time off, “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,” she added.

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

The costs of paid parental leave will be borne within departments at the UA, Vaillancourt said, so no institutionwide budget impact is anticipated.

We applaud the UA: Its new policy is good for the university and good for its employees.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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