UVU adopts paid maternity leave in ‘long overdue’ move | Education | heraldextra.com
It was Astrid Tuminez’s second day on the job as president of Utah Valley University when an employee brought up the institution’s maternity leave policy.
Tuminez, who officially took the helm as UVU president in September, was finishing up virtually interacting with employees with a question and answer session when the topic came up. A handful of months later, a new maternity leave policy granting six weeks of paid leave to eligible employees became a reality.
“I think it is the right thing to do as an appreciation of what our women bring to the table,” Tuminez said.
It’s an issue that resonates with Tuminez, who has been an advocate for women in Asia and is the first woman to lead the university. Tuminez had previously worked as the vice dean of research and assistant dean of executive education at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore when she discovered that as a foreigner, she would not be eligible for paid maternity leave upon the birth of one of her children. Tuminez said she told her boss that once labor began, that would be her resignation.
“Why would I use my talent at a place that doesn’t say to me, ‘We value being a mom,’?” Tuminez said.
Adjustments to the university’s leave of absence policy took effect immediately after being unanimously approved by the UVU Board of Trustees Jan. 17.
Following the vote, UVU Board of Trustees Chair Elaine Dalton called the policy “monumental,” a “wonderful, wonderful move” and expressed her shock the university didn’t already have paid maternity leave.
It’s a sentiment Tuminez shares.
“It is long overdue,” Tuminez said.
Employees had previously been able to receive up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. They were also able to receive 10 workdays worth of paid leave upon the adoption or birth of a child under “birth leave,” which has been renamed to “parental leave.”
The new policy provides up to six consecutive weeks of paid medical maternity leave for full-time, benefits-eligible employees who give birth.
The maternity leave policy, proposed by Tuminez in late November, went through the university’s policy process rather quickly.
“This is a high-growth environment here in Utah County, so we need to compete to recruit and retain the best employees, and we feel like this was one that needed to move ahead quickly,” said Linda Makin, the university’s vice president of planning, budget and human resources.
Makin said the issue of maternity leave had been raised at the university for a couple of years. The university formed the UVU Women’s Council in May, which set the goal of adding paid medical maternity leave at the university.
Makin said the university did research on the topic from a human resources perspective and looked at what other universities were doing. The research found that while the assumption was that birth or parental leave was being used mostly by women, male employees were using it the most.
She doesn’t know if the lack of paid medical maternity leave has led to female employees leaving UVU, but Makin said it did lead to a high level of unhappiness.
Feedback on the new policy was immediate and has come from employees of all genders. Makin said she has heard from supervisors who called the move “tremendous” and said their employees feel valued. Tuminez received a thank you note only hours after the policy passed.
Tuminez said the hope is that the new policy will help to plug the leakage that happens as women leave the workforce in middle and upper management because there isn’t enough help with child or elder care. Work can be difficult or challenging with a newborn, Tuminez said, and she believes the policy will make UVU a better place to work.
UVU isn’t the only Utah university to offer paid maternity leave this year. Starting Jan. 1, the University of Utah has offered full-time, benefited staff paid parental leave for births and adoptions, and as of 2017, Brigham Young University has also offered six weeks of paid medical maternity leave and one week of paid parental leave to full-time, benefited staff and administrative employees.
This content was originally published here.