Paid Parental Leave Policy Working Group
The Paid Parental Leave Policy Working Group is made up of interdisciplinary faculty and staff volunteers in pursuit of equitable, morale-lifting policy change that increases the recruitment and retention of productive and diverse employees. The Working Group started in 2019 and completed an environmental scan of parental leave policies nation-wide of all land-grant higher education institutions. In the 2020-2021 academic year, the Working Group met consistently to discuss the recommendations addressed in the White Paper. Initially sponsored by Athena, the Working Group became an official Faculty Senate Sub-Committee in September 2021.
The Paid Parental Leave Policy Athena Working Group and Faculty Senate Sub-Committee advocates for and proposes the immediate implementation of 12 weeks of paid leave for all benefits-eligible employees.
Proposed Policy Change
Provide 12 weeks of paid parental leave to benefits-eligible faculty and staff, available immediately upon hire, and offered within the 12 months following the birth, adoption or foster of a child.
12 weeks of paid parental leave will not only support equity of faculty and staff into the semester-based academic calendar, it will also lead the state and region in policy change.
A consistent and equitable plan for redistributed work for the semester during or following the birth, adoption or foster of a child will support the Vandal Family. There are several models, state and nation-wide, U of I could adopt to transform the support provided for employees on paid parental leave and employees temporarily hired.
Frequently Asked Questions
Most employee salaries at the University of Idaho are already budgeted annually. While the university saves money if an employee takes unpaid leave, there is no additional cost to continue paying an employee during their leave.
Hiring a temporary replacement to fulfil job duties while an employee is on leave will cost extra. The fiscal impact of covering temporary hires is lower, however, than the cost of replacing a talented worker, as “the several months it would take to find a replacement, along with the cost of manpower to recruit and interview heavily, outweighs the cost of providing this benefit” (“The Real Cost of Paid Parental Leave for Business”). While there are no salary savings for implementing paid parental leave, many employers report that the benefits to morale, retention, and productivity outweigh the potential costs.
Employees are already entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for this purpose. Our proposal includes implementing a plan for equitable redistributed work processes, including funding for adjunct faculty and temporary staff hires or salary increases.
Since paid parental leave is currently unavailable, U of I employees can use a variety of leave options for wage replacement:
- Sick Leave: Faculty and staff can use accrued sick leave for wage replacement.
- This disadvantages many newer employees who do not have leave built up.
- Using sick leave depletes people’s ability to take sick leave when they or their families are sick, need to take sick leave for bereavement, or use sick leave for other care-giving responsibilities.
- Annual Leave: Staff can use annual leave for wage replacement.
- This disadvantages faculty, as faculty do not accrue annual leave.
- This also disadvantages new staff employees who have not accrued much annual leave.
- Annual leave is also based on type of employment (classified vs. exempt) and years of service.
- Shared Leave: Faculty and staff can apply through HR for Shared Leave.
- To be eligible for Shared Leave, an employee must use all other available leave such as sick and annual leave, and compensatory time. Using Shared Leave is an option for people who are literally out of other options.
- Shared Leave can only be used for up to 4 working weeks within a rolling 12-month period.
- Shared Leave can only be donated using annual leave; therefore, staff are the only employees eligible to donate to the Shared Leave program as faculty do not accrue annual leave.
- Short-Term Disability (STD): Faculty and staff can apply through HR for STD.
- To be eligible for STD the employee must have a medical reason which therefore limits this wage replacement option to birthing parents only.
- STD payments replace only 50% of the employee’s income, up to $500 per week, unless the employee has opted to pay for additional STD payments through their payroll deduction, in which case they may be paid up to 67% of their income.
- STD payments begin on day 31 after the “event” or whenever the employee’s sick leave is exhausted, whichever is later.
- STD payments continue until the employee is medically able to return to work, which for a typical vaginal birth is 6 weeks and for a typical caesarean birth is 8 weeks. This means that employees who have given birth would receive at most 2-4 weeks of STD payments at 50-67% of their salary depending on the type of delivery.
Current wage replacement is confusing and complicated. To make it more understandable, this group created a U of I Parental Leave Wage Replacement Flowchart. You can view the chart up above on this webpage.
Several Vandal employees offered their stories for how they managed to cover time away to bond with their child and simultaneously support their family without paid parental leave. Some were more fortunate than others, with support from supervisors, shared leave, or accrued sick and annual leave that could be used for wage replacement. Others, at the cost of emotional, mental, fiscal, and physical well-being, felt forced to comply with University cultural pressures “to do it all” with limited and interrupted time away from the office, classroom, and laboratory.
Major themes and elements heard include:
- Employees are negatively affected by current eligibility requirements for U of I Parental Leave and FMLA.
- Employees cannot afford to take the amount of leave they deem necessary, because they do not have the sick and/or annual leave available for adequate wage replacement.
- Ad hoc arrangements between supervisors and employees are often appreciated, but highlight the issue that there is no congruous policy across the institution for handling the complicated and nuanced situations that new parents face.
- Employees who must use FMLA for sickness or other health related issues within the same calendar year are left with little to no time for the actual birth, adoption, and/or foster placement of their child.
- Employees feel that U of I does not support work/life balance and express low morale.
Vandal Voices we received have been included in the White Paper for all to read.
Boise State University, Idaho State University, and Lewis-Clark State College all offer 8 weeks of paid parental leave; however, each institution that the committee has talked to has made it clear that they are moving to expand their policies to 12 weeks.
The University of Idaho must also compete with regional employers including Washington State University and Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, which both offer 12 weeks of paid parental leave.
12 weeks of paid leave is more equitable between staff and faculty, as faculty who give birth are more likely to take a teaching release for the full 16-week semester.
This committee has met with U of I Human Resource members, Office of Civil Rights & Investigations (OCRI) and Fiscal Operations to gather data to help inform proposed changes. We have not received data yet. When we do, we will update this website and the White Paper.