Kelly McCormack, Florida Atlantic University
Job searching typically involves editing your resume, shopping for the perfect interview outfit, preparing for tough interview questions, and studying salaries and cost of living comparison charts so you are prepared to be a shrewd negotiator. However, one detail that many young professionals ignore when exploring job opportunities is the institution’s policies for new parents. Having a child is a significant life event. After the birth of a child, it is important for parents to have time away from work to bond as a family and to adjust to the many changes that accompany the addition of a new member of a household. Higher education institutions benefit from providing paid parental leave by providing new parents a chance to adjust and to return to work more rested and focused. In addition, paid parental leave can contribute to helping to recruit and retain high quality employees (Boyer, 2016). However, not all higher education institutions offer paid leave or other family-friendly benefits to their employees. It is quite common for graduate students and new professionals to experience both a job search and the journey of new parenthood simultaneously. The purpose of this article is to inform graduate students and new professionals that intend to have children about the types of benefits available for new parents, how to investigate the new parent policies of institutions, negotiate, and ultimately accept a role.
Exemplar Benefits for New Parents
Over the past ten years, technology companies in the Silicon Valley have become leaders in improving parental leave benefits in the United States. In addition to recruiting and retaining employees, Silicon Valley companies also report that paid leave programs increase the likelihood that parents return to the workforce and that employees are motivated to work harder and perform their jobs even better during the second year of their child’s life (Boyer, 2016).
Cutting-edge parental leave benefits often include benefits for new fathers. By expanding paid leave to both mothers and fathers, both parents can support the development of their child and continue to enhance their careers. Parental leave frequently includes both biological births and adoptions and typically starts on the day of birth or the arrival of the adopted child.
Paid Parental Leave Benefits to Investigate
This section will highlight the parental leave benefits that prospective employees should investigate when considering job options: paid parental leave length and length of employment requirements, health insurance coverage and payment during parental leave, and childcare/flexible work hour opportunities.
Paid Parental Leave Length and Length of Employment Stipulations
Taking the lead from companies in Silicon Valley, some higher education institutions offer competitive parental leave policies. For example, in June 2016, Emory University announced the expansion of its parental leave program which now includes three weeks paid parental leave immediately following the birth or adoption of a child for employees who have worked for the institution for the previous twelve consecutive months (Long, 2016). Similarly, Cornell University gives employees with twelve months of consecutive service 4.5 weeks of paid parental leave (Cornell University, 2017). At Brown University, employees receive up to six weeks of paid parental leave for those that have served the university for at least four years (Brown University, 2017). Available immediately upon employment, Baylor University offers four weeks of paid leave for new parents (Vergara, 2017). Prospective employees should pay attention to the institution’s rules for both length of paid leave and required length of employment to be eligible for its paid parental leave program.
At institutions that do not provide paid options for new parents, employees are typically forced to use their annual vacation and/or sick leave to continue being paid while at home with the new child. When this leave runs out, many employees are forced to rely on short-term disability and/or the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA is unpaid and many young professionals starting their careers may not be able to afford to take unpaid leave, especially given the expenses inherent with adding a new baby to their household.
Health Insurance Policies
Another topic to investigate is how the institution handles health insurance premiums during parental leave. Most institutions allow for health insurance benefits to remain active, but it is a good practice to confirm whether your health care premiums will be covered by the institution during your parental leave. In addition, check out the health insurance coverage for your new child, including how to sign up your child for coverage.
Investigate whether the institution offers on-campus childcare services for employees as well as how to get on the waiting list for these services. Although these services are not usually free, they provide a flexibility factor that can work well for new parents. Alternatively, some institutions have partnered with local childcare centers to arrange for a discount for university employees. Still others offer back-up childcare assistance when the child’s primary caregiver is unavailable. For example, Iowa State University provides Comfort Zone – a service that cares for ill children when the parent must go to work or attend a meeting (Iowa State University, 2017).
How to Learn about New Parent Policies
If you plan to have children, it is in your best interest to pay attention to potential employers’ family leave policies. To do so, go to each institution’s Human Resources webpage and search for parental leave or maternity leave. These policies are typically located in the benefits section of the Human Resources website.
Crowdsourced websites like Glassdoor.com can also be helpful when researching benefits at multiple institutions. Another option is to reach out to your network of colleagues, through LinkedIn or other means, at the institution to learn about parental policies. Once a job offer has been extended, prospective employees will likely find that their designated HR representative is the most accurate source of information about benefits in general, including new parent benefits.
In the future, hopefully more higher education institutions will follow the lead of companies in the Silicon Valley by providing paid parental leave for all new parents. In the meantime, the next time you are searching for a job be sure to investigate the parental leave policies of potential employers. Although some universities are making great strides in providing fair parental leave policies, there are still so many that do not offer paid leave. Do your homework about new parental leave policies ahead of time so that you make an informed decision about your next job opportunity!
Boyer, R. (2016). Updating parental leave policies in higher education. Retrieved from http://chroniclegreatcollges.com/blog
Brown University. (2017). Parental leave (30.026) | Policies. Retrieved from https://www.brown.edu/about/administration/policies/index.php?q=parental-leave-30026
Cornell University. (2017). Parental leave. Retrieved from https://www.hr.cornell.edu
Emory University. (2016). Parental leave for staff, librarians, and postdoctoral Fellows. Retrieved from http://policies.emory.edu/4.125
Iowa State University. (2017). The comfort zone (ISU sick child care services). Retrieved from http://www.wellbeing.iastate.edu/wellbeing-links/comfort-zone-isu-sick-child-care-services
Long, E. (2016). Emory University expands benefits to include paid parental leave. Retrieved from http://news.emory.edu
Vergara, J. (2017). Baylor named a ‘Great college to work for.’ Retrieved from http://baylorlariat.com/2017/09/13/baylor-named-a-great-college-to-work-for/
Kelly McCormack is a first year graduate student at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) in Boca Raton, FL. She has been working in higher education for over six years, joining the staff at Florida Atlantic University in 2016. She plans events and develops marketing materials for donors, alumni, and corporate sponsors at FAU’s College of Business. Before FAU, Kelly lived and worked in New York City at Marymount Manhattan College.