UA considers paid parental leave policy for faculty 

Isabel Hope, Assistant News Editor

The University is considering a proposal for paid parental leave for faculty members. 

The proposal, which was sent to University administration several weeks ago, is for all UA employees. It  was a collaborative effort between the Faculty Senate, the Professional Staff Assembly and the Office, Clerical, and Technical Staff Assembly. 

“Paid parental leave improves employee retention, increases competitive advantage and enhances employee engagement, morale and productivity,” the joint statement said. 

Deidre Stalnaker, UA director of communications, said this proposal is being reviewed in relation to the University’s yearly budget.

“Our University leaders recognize and value the importance of a healthy work-life balance for our faculty and staff, and this proposal is receiving thoughtful consideration as the University’s budget is finalized for the coming year,” Stalnaker said.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham and Auburn University have both introduced paid parental leave policies in 2016 and 2020. 

Robyn Hammontree, a senior instructional designer at the University who is expecting her first child in October, said she wishes the proposal review process was more transparent. 

“I feel like once we hand something off to administration, we don’t really know what happens,” Hammontree said. 

Proposals are typically presented by Faculty Senate members for a vote and can be officially enacted by UA President Stuart Bell. The process can take anywhere from a few weeks to years.

Hammontree said she believes paid parental leave could also be a recruiting incentive.

“This is a vital piece of serving our communities, and I think it is something that we owe to people,” she said. “It is also very appealing to people looking for jobs. If we’re going to recruit the best people, we’re going to need to provide those benefits too.”

A 2017 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that maternal and family leave policies improve morale, productivity, recruitment and retention rates

If the proposal is approved, the University would provide eight weeks of paid leave if the child is born, fostered or adopted during the academic year or less than eight weeks prior to the beginning of the academic year. This time could be extended if needed by the faculty member. 

The Family and Medical Leave Act was signed into federal law in 1993 and requires employers to provide unpaid leave for medical reasons. It allows faculty members to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave time if eight weeks is insufficient.

Stalnaker said the University has made efforts to provide options for faculty members.

“UA currently offers comprehensive benefit packages that include generous leave options designed to cover a variety of needs, including parental leave,” she said. “As shown online in the faculty and employee handbooks, UA’s benefits are intentionally designed to reflect those needs and values.”

Hammontree said she hopes the proposed policy will be enacted and that it will be “equitable” to eventually serve the entire UA community.

“Faculty and staff all across the board have families and they have the same needs that people have, whether you’re a part-time faculty member, professional staff, clerical staff or office staff,” Hammontree said. “You have the same needs in terms of needing to stay home with your child and have that time to recover and bond.”

This story was corrected on Thursday, July 8. The proposed policy is for all UA employees and would not be limited to 9-month faculty.