Baylor to update parental leave policy

Baylor interim President David E. Garland officially signed the parental leave and adoption assistance policies during a ceremony in the President’s Office at Pat Neff Hall. He was joined by Human Resources representatives (L to R) Hank Steen III, director of benefits, and Cheryl Gochis, vice president for human resources, and Staff Council representatives, president Wil Telfer III, information security analyst in IT, and president-elect Lori McNamara, assistant to senior assistant dean and admissions coordinator in the Graduate School. Photo credit: Courtesy Photo

Jessica Morrow, assistant director of stewardship, went through the maternity leave process for Baylor staff over a year and a half ago and said she was very frustrated by her experiences. Upon returning to work and talking with other coworkers, she realized several employees were not happy with Baylor’s maternity leave policy for staff.

“I thought, if so many people want the policy change, why don’t we change it,” Morrow said.

Along with Sarah Brockhaus, director of contract administration, Morrow began researching, drafting letters and talking to human resources about changing the policy. Morrow said the administration valuing staff opinions and requests is one thing that makes Baylor a unique place to work.

“We are sending students out into the world, and we are expecting them to go out into the workplace. We are expecting them to be mothers and fathers,” Morrow said. “If Baylor is an example of a place they should aspire to work at, this policy is something they should aspire to have whenever they work.”

According to a press release, Baylor’s parental leave policy will provide up to four weeks of paid leave for full-time staff (female and male) who become parents through birth or adoption. The program will reimburse up to $6,000 of qualifying adoption-related expenses per adoption, up to two children per year. All faculty and staff are eligible to participate in the adoption program following one year of full-time employment with the university.

According to the director of benefits and human resources service center, Hank Steen under the previous policy staff had to qualify for the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), meaning they had to be employed for at least a year and were required to use any vacation, sick and personal days. With this policy, staff are eligible immediately, and the four weeks are in addition to anytime off.

“As a Christian institution, we should be leaders in caring for our staff, faculty and students,” Garland said.

The press release also said that Baylor joins SMU as the only other Texas university that provides both staff and faculty with paid parental leave. With the adoption assistance program, Baylor is the only university in Texas and one of the few nationally that provides this benefit.

“Baylor values its faculty and staff as essential to the fulfillment of its mission, and these important additions to staff and faculty benefits reflect our ongoing commitment to families and the cultivation of a caring community that extends beyond our campus,” Garland said in the release. “We give thanks to the Human Resources team and Baylor Staff Council for their good work and collaboration on the development of these new benefits.”

Garland said he thought this policy needed to be changed because the staff does so much to care for the students, faculty and other staff members, and he saw this as an opportunity to care for them as well.