| 03.17.2018

Expanding leave for expanding families


Proposed amendments to employee leave policy would expand parenting leave

Proposed changes to University of Idaho employee leave policies could extend parenting leave from 12 to 16 weeks and allow both parents to take a full leave of absence.

The proposal is pending Faculty Senate approval and was introduced last Tuesday by Ruth Funaniki, head of Technical Services for the College of Law.

The largest amendment to the leave policy is the extension of parenting leave by four weeks, along with small changes to the university’s shared leave policy.

“We’re recommending that (if) both parents are employed by the University of Idaho, both would be eligible for leave,” Funaniki said.

If approved, the policy would define eligibility requirements for parenting leave. Employees’ 16-week leave would be job protected and include continuation of group health insurance coverage within 12 months of the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FML) requires 12 weeks for parenting leave.

UI’s current policy states employees are only eligible for shared leave for “routine pregnancy-related disability and complications of childbirth and pregnancy.”

With the proposed changes, both parents would be eligible for full individual parenting leave, even if the four-week leave extension is not approved. Funaniki said both parents should have full access to leave.

UI General Counsel Kent Nelson said the other proposed change to the policy includes  language for employees to first use accrued sick leave before before going on unpaid leave for parenting purposes.

“The question is should sick leave be used for the parenting aspect of the Family Medical Act,” he said.

In the amended policy, parents would be allowed to use up to 10 days of sick leave to care for their children, Nelson said. Employees would have to use accrued sick leave before going on unpaid leave, but can use a combination of both.

“The federal law requires that we do a number of things — including allowing parenting leave,” Nelson said. “The expansion would be to allow, actually to mandate, for the full time the federal medical leave is used for parenting.”

Funaniki said the leave policy was lacking a section on what to do if an employee is due for a baby. Faculty Affairs restructured the policy to create a parenting leave section, Funaniki said.

“What we did was we pulled the things that had to do with parenting … and put them together,” she said. “We did that for the convenience of university employees and for clarity.”

Previously, the policy outlined which section to turn to for various leave instances such as sick leave, holidays, military leave and jury duty — parenting was not included.

“We’re encouraging people to learn about the Family and Medical Leave Act,” Funaniki said.

Faculty Senate will discuss and vote on the amended policy Tuesday.

“I think we should not lose sight of really trying to make sure we get a change in the policy that makes an impact for our employees,” Nelson said.

Katelyn Hilsenbeck can be reached at arg-news@uidaho.edu

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