The university announced this week that it will expand paid parental leave policies to include university staff, giving staff members up to 12 weeks of paid leave. Over a year after the initial proposal, the policy came into effect on Oct. 1.
The new parental leave policy for staff follows last year’s changes to the faculty parental leave policy. As of last April, faculty have been able to receive four months of paid parental leave, an increase from the previous policy that had promised only eight weeks.
Last year, Jeanna Balreira, director for creative and editorial services, had to take time off work without having paid parental leave. However, her husband, Eduardo Cabral Balreira, professor of mathematics, was able to take a semester off work to take care of their child.
“Because, as a staff member, I did not have paid parental leave, I was forced to use stored sick and vacation time in order to continue getting paid after the birth of my child, EJ. Having been at Trinity for more than five years, I was lucky to have ‘saved up’ enough leave hours to cover eight weeks of full-time leave and four weeks of part-time leave (I worked from home 20 hours a week during my last four weeks of leave),” Balreira wrote in an email interview.
The Trinity Staff Engagement Committee, made up of staff representatives, spent last year researching policies and prepared a draft policy. This policy was then presented to university president Danny Anderson’s leadership team made up of about eight staff vice presidents across departments. The leadership team decided to wait for Kara Larkan-Skinner, executive director of Institutional Research and Effectiveness and leadership council member, to be part of the finalization. Tess Coody-Anders, vice president for Strategic Communications and Marketing and leadership team member, described the leadership team’s process.
“The leadership team then worked through that — what the unintended consequences would be, what the benefits would be and then from there, a written policy was crafted. We were just about to bring on a new general council for the university as that work was being done,” Coody-Anders said. “So we waited until the dust had settled for her so that she could be part of finalizing that policy, and once that work was done, Dr. Anderson and the leadership team were able to officially approve it, select a length of time and then announce it to the university community.”
When a benefit-eligible staff member requests parental leave, human resources will keep track of the time taken off.
“The staff member has to have worked at Trinity at least one year as of the date of birth of the child or the adoption of the child,” said Pamela Johnston, assistant vice president for Human Resources. “Any requests for parental leave will come to human resources and we will make sure that the person is eligible according to the policy. It should be pretty easy. Then the leave will be tracked. Human resources already tracks sick leave and vacation leave and administrative leave. It’s just another form of leave.”
The two types of parental leave are available to each staff member. The first is primary caregiver leave, consisting of 12 weeks of paid leave, and the other is secondary caregiver leave, which includes two weeks of paid leave. Coody-Anders believes that this policy will have a positive impact on Trinity’s work environment.
“It does require in any organization where you implement a parental leave policy that everyone be willing to work together on teams to ensure that the work gets done and everything is efficient. But the research shows that policies like these foster engagement and teamwork and that on the whole, the benefits to the organization are far greater than any minimal cost that may result,” Coody-Anders said.
Anderson emphasized the benefits the policy will bring to the Trinity community in a press release.
“This policy is a wonderful representation of Trinity’s values. By honoring and respecting our employees and their families, we demonstrate our commitment to community and the individual. Moreover, we advance our pursuit of excellence, as we strive to be one of the top places to work not only in San Antonio, but in higher education,” Anderson wrote.