UNM launches new paid parental leave policy for staff

Albuquerque News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – First it was the City of Albuquerque, now one of the state’s largest employers, the University of New Mexico, has signed off on a big benefit for new parents.

UNM just launched its “Paid Parental Leave Policy” on July 1, giving full-time and part-time staff at the university up to four weeks paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child. The policy covers around 6,000 staff employees, or the non-faculty, administrative and support side employees that help run the university.

“This is a great retention tool for our staff here,” said Rob Burford, a 24-year UNM employee who helped push the policy through.

A longtime staffer and former president of the UNM Staff Council, Burford says he began working on the new policy after an expecting co-worker kept showing up to the work when she should have stayed home sick.

“She’s like, ‘you know, I have to save up my sick and annual leave, to make sure I have enough to spend time, have that bonding time with my little one,'” said Burford, recalling his former co-worker’s situation. “That kind of spurred me on to say, you know what, we need to do something about this,” Burford said.

In the past, UNM staff members could only use vacation and sick time, then FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) for parental leave. FMLA, however, is an unpaid benefit. UNM’s new paid parental leave policy adds an additional four weeks of paid leaves for parents with new kids.

After the City of Albuquerque launched a similar benefit in late December, offering 12-weeks of paid leave, UNM staff says it was inspired to see if a paid policy could work for all university staff, including the Health Sciences Center. “It’s becoming a competitive benefit for filling positions, attracting new applicants towards our jobs and retaining individuals,” said Kathy Agnew, executive director for UNM’s Human Resource Services.

Agnew says the university is often faced with several employees each year who choose to leave their job entirely after having a child. “You want to retain your workforce so you can cut down on costs for retraining people when they leave because they’ve had a birth or an adoption,” said Agnew.

UNM estimates that around 178 staff members will have a child (mothers and fathers), while around nine staff members will adopt a child each year.

The benefit is estimated to cost the university about $511,000 each year. UNM says that dollar figure represents the amount of salary that it’s estimating it will pay out for employees on leave, which represents lost workplace productivity.

“Yes, there’s some productivity that may be lost, but that productivity is going to be gained on the back end by showing that you know, UNM cares about our staff here,” said Burford.

UNM says the new parental leave is essentially normal salary that would be paid with regular working hours to the employee. The only potential extra cost the university would incur is if UNM had to pay a temporary employee to fill in the gaps while the parent is on leave.

So far, UNM says 30 staff members have signed up for the paid parental leave.

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