By MARTY LEVINE
Paid parental leave, a benefit secured through the advocacy of Staff Council members, is now in its fifth year, with 624 mothers and fathers already taking 12,335 days off as of April 2022, reports the Office of Human Resources.
The benefit — up to four weeks paid time off in the year following birth, adoption or fostering of a new child — was instituted on July 1, 2017, when Andy Stephany, administrator of the Vascular Medicine Institute, was Staff Council president. Stephany recalls immediate positive feedback from HR, hearing that the new opportunity reduced job turnover among those wishing to take time off to spend with a new child.
Kenny Doty, associate director of technology in the Swanson School of Engineering and executive vice president of Staff Council, took four paid weeks off in 2021 for his first child, thanks to the benefit. “It was great for us to have that time not only to bond with my son but to give my girlfriend time to recover, time to do things for herself,” he says. Plus, Doty says, he was there when their son had minor health issues that took him back to the hospital briefly, and was able to do middle-of-the-night feedings without worrying about working in the morning.
“I didn’t want to feel that I wasn’t able to be helpful,” he said. “Sometimes fathers feel that way, that there is not a lot they can do. The fact that the University allows us as fathers to go out (on leave) — it not only allows us the time and gives us the pay for it, but I think it helps to encourage fathers to be more of a part of childcare at the beginning of their child’s life. For me that has continued on, because of the encouragement early on.
“If I’d had to go to work I would have felt less connected to my son overall,” he adds.
Friends whose jobs required them to take sick time to be with a new child, he says, “came back to work with little to no sick time, which is necessary after you have a child. This inevitably caused unpaid absences when the child required a doctor visit or extra attention, or resulted in workers coming into the office when sick themselves.
With the parental leave policy, he says, “you end up with better morale” on the job.
He recalls preparing the paperwork ahead of time, as is recommended, but mistakenly thinking he had to wait for the birth certificate to arrive before turning it in. His paperwork was thus late, and his leave rejected — at first. “HR worked with me to correct this situation,” he says. “They were very helpful in fixing it and making it OK.
“Overall it’s a great thing and I’m hoping there can be more options for paid leave or for more extended paid leave in the future,” he adds, noting that a cousin who works for a university in the UK got an entire paid year off at the birth of his own child.
“Paid parental leave is a selling point and benefit for employee recruiting as well as retention, as part of Pitt’s overall benefits package,” says Nichole Dwyer, HR director of communications. “Feedback has consistently been positive, with paid parental leave regarded as a great addition to the University’s benefits.”
The paid parental leave benefit must be used in one block of time, but in general may be taken for up to four weeks at any time during the year following a birth, adoption or new foster child relationship. It is available to full-time regular staff members, and to part-timers on a pro-rated basis.
There are other rules governing the benefit — for maternity leaves, the paid parental leave must be used at the start of the medical portion of the leave, once the baby is born, and all paid parental leaves must take into account the leave rules surrounding the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the University’s Short-term Disability (STD) program.
In addition, the staff member must plan on returning to work upon ending the leave, according to the HR regulations.
Find the full benefit guide here.
Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-758-4859.
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