September 11, 2015

New paid parental leave is added to employee benefits

babyhandUAB now will provide up to four weeks of paid parental leave for eligible employees expecting the birth or adoption of a child. Even better, employees can redeem the new benefit before exhausting their available paid and unpaid leave.

The new policy, signed by President Ray Watts and slated to be available no later than July 2016, is a collaborative effort between the UAB administration and Faculty Senate that built on an earlier proposal by the Commission of the Status of Women. The benefit aligns the university with the rare U.S. employers that provide gender-neutral, paid parental leave.

“UAB is so pleased to be able to offer this important benefit that will enable employees to take much-needed time with their newborns or newly adopted children,” Watts said. “This represents a great stride in our HR efforts and reflects the strong collaboration between our administration and faculty to make this benefit a reality.”

"The faculty are keenly interested in family-friendly policies and have been working towards a paid family-leave policy for years," said Alecia Gross, chair of the UAB Faculty Senate.  "We are excited that UAB will initiate a four-week paid maternity/paternity leave, and look forward toward even more family-friendly policies, such as extended daycare facilities.  These are crucial in recruitment and retention of faculty and staff, and signal that families are a priority at UAB."

Under the new policy, employees who qualify for the Family and Medical Leave of Absence Policy are eligible for paid parental leave. UAB offers up to 12 weeks of FMLA-protected leave for employees who have worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months; the new paid parental leave is included in the 12-week allowance.

America is the sole developed country that does not provide federally guaranteed parental leave. As a result, only 11-12 percent of U.S. workers have access to paid parental leave through their employer, according to the 2013 National Compensation Survey and a 2015 report by Center for American Progress.

Among the nation’s universities, the number is not much higher, but it is gaining traction. A 2004 survey by the University of Virginia identified only 18 percent of colleges and universities offer a gender-neutral, paid parental leave. By 2012, a survey by College and University Professional Association for Human Resources reported that 25 percent of the responding 485 institutions were providing some paid parental leave.

Chief Human Resource Office Alesia Jones said select research revealed UAB’s peer universities are moving toward providing some type of paid parental leave and it is in UAB’s best interests to be an early adopter of the practice. “If we help employees maintain the work-life balance that is important to their well-being, it helps us retain valued employees and ensures that we are more competitive when recruiting,” she said.