The Ball State Board of Trustees approved a new policy that allows paid parental leave for university employees Feb. 3.
The new policy will provide up to six weeks of paid leave for parents following the birth or adoption of a child.
“This family-friendly addition to our benefits package offers a great boost to our hardworking employees,” Interim President Terry King said in a press release. “We want our working parents to be able to focus on their families during those important first weeks a child is at home. This is the right thing for all of Ball State.”
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Jennifer Erickson, an anthropology professor who had to save up six weeks of sick leave in order to have time off with her baby in 2012, is in support of the new policy.
“It took me a long time to organize my classes for the six-weeks leave that I took to have a baby,” Erickson said. “That time would have otherwise been spent publishing my research, which is another important component of our life as professors at Ball State, and factors into how quickly a professor earns tenure and promotion.”
While Erickson said it took a lot of work to get six weeks off, it was very crucial to help build a relationship with her child.
“Mothers need time to physically recover from birth, and new parents need time to sleep and emotionally bond with their children,” Erickson said. “Getting time off to have a child is not a vacation. Giving birth and raising children are hard work.”
In addition to mothers getting paid time off, the new policy also allows for fathers to take time off to spend with their family.
Nora Hopf, the president of Ball State Students for Life, said it is especially important for families to spend the time after birth together as a unit.
“There is a requested two-to-four week period in which the parents aren't supposed to leave the house without the child,” Hopf said. “So the mother is kind of cooped up by herself in the house with a new baby, which isn’t good for her health, especially when she also has to take care of her own health needs.”
Erickson said the new policy could also help students cope with their teacher being gone.
“In my opinion, the students in my classes suffered when I was on leave because they had a different person in their classes every other day for six weeks,” Erickson said. “Naturally, they emailed me with questions so I never really got a leave, which is unfair.”
While Ball State administration and the university’s Gender Equity Task Force have been working toward this new policy for some time, paid parental leave is not mandated in the U.S.
“I think they don’t because they think it will cost too much money, but that is a narrow understanding that overlooks the long-term implications of work-life balance,” Erickson said. “If parents return to work after having a baby but they’re too exhausted, or mad or distracted, to do the job, then the employer loses out.”
Hopf said the U.S. should move toward having paid parental leave because many young employees seek employment at companies that do.
“That is one of the No. 1 things that I personally look for in starting a family,” Hopf said. “When I'm looking at internships and jobs, I’m looking for a company that will let me take time off when the time comes for me to start my family.”
Erickson said she is happy to work at a school that allows for her to have professional care and a personal life.
“I love my job. And I love my family,” Erickson said. “Any employer that acknowledges and supports this love for both is a better employer, in my opinion.”