The University of Colorado's Boulder campus announced Tuesday it would grant six weeks of paid parental leave to university staff, who previously used accrued and unpaid leave after having or adopting children.
Effective July 1, CU Boulder university staff will be allowed six weeks of paid parental leave to be used within one year of the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child, and to run concurrently with the 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave mandated under the federal Family Medical Leave Act. Classified staff will not be eligible for the paid leave because they are under the purview of the state, but university leaders said they are exploring options with the state to extend the benefit to them.
"This was a huge step in the right direction," said Jessica Gammey, a project coordinator in the facilities management department. Gammey is also one of the incoming co-chairs of the CU Boulder Staff Council. "We were so thrilled that this is going to be offered."
For Gammey — whose sons, Andrew and Jacob, were born in 2015 and 2016 — the policy would have provided a more secure financial situation and a more smooth transition between work and leave.
Her husband, she said, decided to become the stay-at-home parent. When her unpaid leave started after the birth of their first son, the new family's income stopped, and she returned to work having exhausted her accrued sick and vacation leave.
Before the birth of her second son, she encountered pregnancy complications that forced her to use the majority of the accrued leave she'd been saving for his birth. She worked part-time at the office and part-time from home, "doing neither justice."
Gammey detailed her story in a 10-page white paper prepared over the course of several years by a working group of the University of Colorado Staff Council, the representative body for staff across the system. The paper proposed paid parental leave and provided recommendations as to how to implement it.
"I am a mother, but I also have a strong desire to grow my career," she wrote in her testimonial. "A male coworker and his wife had their children at the same time as I did. His career didn't stall when he had a child, but he also didn't get the time to stay home and bond with his child that I did. Surely there is a balance between the two that shifts our society to not just say it values families but to do so in practice."
Gammey said her experience was in many ways similar to the experiences of other university staff, and she was fortunate that she had a supportive department.
Heather Martin, the other incoming co-chair of the CU Boulder Staff Council, echoed Gammey that the new policy was a big step in the right direction.
"Sometimes staff feel overlooked on our campus, and so the fact that this will have some real impact in our community is a big win and a big morale boost overall," said Martin, who is an assistant office manager in the faculty assistant office.
She also reiterated their commitment to advocating on behalf of classified staff.
The working group originally formed in 2015 and included representatives of each of the campuses and was facilitated by system staff. The group prepared the white paper, which included results of a system survey that identified parental leave as a key obstacle for employees, argued that paid parental leave would benefit both staff and the university and outlined how CU compared to peer institutions. The process included multiple stages of refining the proposal and working with administrators.
The CU Boulder Staff Council endorsed the white paper at its March meeting. The then-co-chairs of the council, John Kelly and Mirinda Scott, signed a letter to the CU Board of Regents and other campus and system administrators in support of the white paper.
"We've seen research time and time and time again that the lack of this benefit contributes to the gender pay gap, and we definitely see that within departments and on campus," Kelly said. "We wanted to tackle this issue that, one, we'd heard from staff consistently about, and, two, that we had research that was tying the existence of the gender pay gap on campus to the lack of this benefit."
Gammey said the end result was a prime example of what can happen when staff and administrators work together, calling it a great partnership.
"This policy enhancement is the result of many people wanting to support the well-being of our employees and their families," said Kelly Fox, CU Boulder senior vice chancellor and chief financial officer, in a statement Tuesday. "It also supports our efforts to recruit and retain faculty and staff on the Boulder campus, and to foster an inclusive and supportive workplace for parents and families."
The CU Board of Regents approved the new administrative policy, which grants four weeks of paid parental leave to eligible faculty and staff. The Boulder campus extended the four weeks to six and will fund the benefit with existing campus funds.
CU Boulder tenure and tenure-track faculty already receive 18 weeks of paid leave, and tenure and tenure-track library faculty already receive six months of paid leave.
Cassa Niedringhaus: 303-473-1106, firstname.lastname@example.org