College considers maternity, paternity leave policy

by Desiree JacksonStaff Writer

The Faculty Development Working Group recommended a plan for a maternity and paternity leave policy that would give faculty a paid semester off to care for the birth of a new child or adoption.

The group approved the proposal as part of a larger document on Faculty Development Issues. The plan is still in committee but many faculty and administration see it as a positive step in creating a policy that Simpson doesn’t currently have.

“I’m very supportive of having a stronger maternity leave policy,” President John Byrd said. “We are looking at it very closely. We hope to have a policy in place by spring.”

The current policy Simpson follows is the one outlined by the Family and Medical Leave Act. This act allows employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth of a child or adoption, care of a sick child, spouse, or parent or physical inability to perform one’s job functions.

“FMLA doesn’t really give people what they need,” said Steve Griffith, vice president and dean for academic affairs.

The recommendations being considered at Simpson would allow for a full semester off for the primary caregiver, mother or father, at full pay. There would also be encouragement to hire a replacement for the faculty member during his or her absence.

If both parents are faculty at Simpson College then one parent would be eligible to take advantage of the policy.

“I think it’s something everyone should want and have,” Griffith said. “We just have to work out the details. Most good schools have a policy on this matter.”

Until now, Simpson College has not had a specific maternity and paternity leave policy in place. This has caused women on campus to plan their pregnancies around specific times.

“I specifically planned my pregnancy so I could have the summer off,” said Jackie Brittingham, associate professor of biology. “We have been forced to plan our pregnancies to be home with our kids in the summer. It is no longer acceptable.”

The proposal also addresses time off for family emergencies that is above and beyond FMLA standards. Time off for such emergencies would be unpaid and would allow for up to a semester off.

“This proposal goes above and beyond FMLA because it covers domestic partnerships as well,” Brittingham said.

This proposal is still in the discussion stages, and recommendations have been made.

Several groups have been looking at this issue for awhile. The impact this proposal would have on the budget is unknown at this point. There would need to be financial support from the administration to hire adjunct professors during absences due to maternity and paternity leave or family emergencies.

The faculty and administration do see this proposal as a positive step forward. Many believe it would be better than having no policy at all.

“There are no women on this campus who have had children during the school year, at least in the past 10 years,” Brittingham said. “Any women who have children on this campus have summer birthdays.”