The UC system approved a paid family leave benefit that will go into effect July 1, 2021.
Eight weeks of paid leave will be provided for UC faculty and staff to take time off to care for a child or a seriously ill family member. The policy ensures that UC employees will receive at least 70% of their wages during this time.
UC Berkeley School of Law staff member Rachel DeLetto said she was seven months pregnant when she discovered that she had no paid leave benefits as an employee of the UC system.
DeLetto said she began doing legal research and realized there was no reason the UC system could not adopt policies similar to the rest of the state. Her team then created a report that detailed issues with the previous policy and suggested ways to change the coverage offered by the UC system.
According to DeLetto, in contrast to the policies of public companies in California, the previous UC policy only offered paid leave benefits for instances of physical injury and 40% pay for one week.
Employees could receive up to six weeks of paid leave for physical disability only if they opted in to supplemental disability insurance, which employees had to pay for out of pocket.
DeLetto said the supplemental insurance policy had its caveats. Expectant mothers could benefit only if they opted in before they became pregnant, which left many unaware mothers without benefits. The policy also did not cover situations such as surrogacy, adoption or foster care.
According to DeLetto, when she expressed her concerns about the paid leave benefits to colleagues, many of them were unaware of the difficulties it created for new families.
“We were just really shocked,” DeLetto said. “Nobody seemed to be taking this seriously at all.”
For many parents working in the UC system, the lack of substantial benefits forced them to reconsider working at the university, DeLetto added. Many people she spoke to considered leaving or left the university because of the difficulties they faced regarding issues such as finding adequate child care services or encountering the financial feasibility of having a larger family.
While DeLetto is glad the university is now working to change its policies, she believes that only the “bare minimum” was achieved. DeLetto added that eight weeks of paid leave is still inadequate compared to how strenuous the effects of giving birth or adapting to a new family are.
“If there is ever going to be even close to gender equity in the workplace, there has absolutely has to be more support for working families,” DeLetto said. “That includes paid time off.”
Throughout the next year, individuals such as academic personnel, faculty leaders and those in human resources leadership across the UC system will continue to finalize the benefit’s details.