The Faculty Senate, a governmental body composed of faculty members from different departments, has updated the parental leave policy for Trinity academic faculty. The new policy went into effect this spring.

According to Pamela Johnston, assistant vice president for Human Resources, the changes extend the amount of time given to faculty members.

“The previous policy guaranteed eight weeks of paid leave but gave up to a semester depending on the circumstances,” Johnston said. “The new policy gives a paid semester or four paid months of leave as the default, with the option to take an additional, subsequent, unpaid leave for up to four months.”

The policy’s language has also been updated.

The language changed to make clear that the purpose of the policy is to give faculty members the time to be with new additions to their families, while the previous policy stated that the primary purpose was to minimize disruption to classes, Johnston said. It [now] also states that a faculty member will neither be at a disadvantage for taking a leave, nor be required to perform additional work to compensate.

The policy also now applies to library faculty.

Johnston explained how Trinity’s family and medical leave policy works for couples in which one person is a faculty member and the other is a staff member.

“The faculty member, if they’re the primary caretaker, can use the parental leave,” Johnston said. “If they’re a staff member, then they could use their sick or vacation time, and both faculty and staff members are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Eduardo Cabral Balreira, associate professor of mathematics, is among the first faculty members on the new leave policy. He is married to Jeanna Goodrich Balreira, associate director of creative communications, and is the primary caretaker of their son EJ — Eduardo James — who was born in December, shortly after finals.

I feel very lucky and glad to be in a place where I can take a whole semester off to be with my child, Cabral Balreira said.

Cabral Bareira discussed problems with the old policy, where faculty members were given only eight weeks off — the time mandated by federal law — but could also negotiate with the chair of their department to get one course released.

Trinity faculty normally teach three courses, or nine contact hours, so for a faculty to take eight weeks off is really tough on the students, because that’s nearly half a semester. You’re used to having one faculty and then you have another one, Cabral Balreira said. So many people would opt for a course release.

The new policy allows Cabral Balreira to spend six months with his son, taking into account last winter break. Overall, he is happy with his experience with parental leave at Trinity.

I’ve been very lucky. I don’t think I’ve been getting as much research done, but it’ll be OK, Cabral Balreira said. It’s an important time to be with my child, and if I’m that lucky to spend the first six months with him, research will take a back seat for a while.

Jeanna Goodrich Balreira was also able to take 12 weeks off to take care of her son through the staff policy for parental leave, which is different from the policy for Trinity faculty. Unlike faculty members, staff members must accrue vacation and sick days that can be saved up to use for parental leave.

In an email interview, Goodrich Balreira wrote about how she saved her vacation and sick days throughout the year to use for parental leave.

I earn 160 vacation hours per year. This is four 40-hour weeks, or 20 days. … In a typical year, I may use 80–100 vacation hours, usually on one long — 7-to-10-day — vacation and a handful of other vacation days throughout the year, and maybe 24–48 sick hours, Goodrich Balreira wrote. However, I had to ‘bank’ my vacation and sick leave in order to save the equivalent of 12 full weeks of paid time off, and only took one or two vacation and sick days during my nine months of pregnancy.

Goodrich Balreira said that while this procedure worked well for her, it can also be challenging.

I enjoyed every single minute of being with EJ, but had I not been able to do that, if I [hadn’t] had so much leave saved up, I would have missed out, Goodrich Balreira said.

“You know, that can lead to harboring resentment, or wishing you would have done something different, which isn’t the mentality or the attitude that you want in your staff members, Goodrich Balreira said.

Goodrich Balreira expressed discomfort with the fact that staff parental leave is not paid if the staff member does not use paid sick time or vacation days.

I’m very lucky to have a job where I can save up enough sick time and vacation time to be able to take 12 weeks off and still get paid the process. But I know that there are many people on staff that do not have that luxury, whether they are of childbearing age, gender, or not, Goodrich Balreira said. If we look at other institutions, not just higher education … the ability to offer a paid leave for parents does increase employee satisfaction.

Denise Covert, associate director of Human Resources, spoke about the process that staff members go through to obtain parental leave.

Staff can request leave either through their department supervisor, and once they take the leave, if they are a classified staff employee — which is a nonexempt employee who is paid hourly — they enter their time in the Web Time Entry [webpage], and they show it as a sick or vacation time and then their supervisor approves their Web Time Entry, Covert said.

The process is different for contract staff, who receive a fixed salary while classified members receive hourly wages.

[Contract staff] have a leave request form that they would complete and take to their supervisor, who will deliver it to us so we can track it in our system, Covert said. If it’s any relation to family medical leave, they come to me. I give them the proper paperwork that they need to take to their doctor for certification … and if it’s approved, I follow up with a letter letting them know that everything has been approved.

More information about the current parental leave policy can be found on the university website.

1 COMMENT

  1. While I’m happy for faculty getting this perk, I find myself heartbroken on behalf of staff. Saving up enough vacation/sick days for a full maternity leave is not a realistic possibility for everyone, and most staff don’t have large enough salaries to put back the amount of money needed to make up for unpaid leave. Having a baby is expensive, and you end up needing your sick days and vacation days for when your child gets sick, or when your children have events at school. It’s actually kind of cruel to make staff save up weeks and weeks of sick/vacay leave in order to have a baby (so they don’t fall into poverty taking unpaid leave), while Faculty are getting that time off as free paid leave. Our staff members are essential to making Trinity the great place it is; Paid family leave should be a right for all levels of workers.

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