UC system extends use of accrued sick leave for child care purposes

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Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a temporary change in sick leave for UC employees for child care purposes that was originally supposed to last through Dec. 31, 2020, was extended through June 30 of this year.

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On Wednesday, UC President Michael Drake approved an extension through June 30, allowing policy-covered employees to use accrued sick leave for child care purposes as a result of COVID-19.

The temporary change was first approved for July 1, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2020. The change in the UC Absence from Work Policy applies to UC policy-covered staff employees at locations other than Lawrence Berkeley National Lab or UC Hastings College of the Law.

“This provides relief for parents whose children have been unable to attend school or child care due to COVID-19 restrictions,” UC Office of the President, or UCOP, spokesperson Erika Cervantes said in an email.

Cervantes added that Drake empathizes with families dealing with various pandemic-related challenges and recognized the impact COVID-19 restrictions have on child care responsibilities for parents.

Tomie Lenear, UC Berkeley program coordinator at the campus Student Parent Center, said the extension of the policy change was a “smart decision.”

“If these measures weren’t in place, then it’d be even more difficult,” Lenear said. “I have a son who’s recovering from orthopedic surgery, and I was able to take time off to be with him.”

Lenear added the recent expansion of the use of accrued sick leave for child care purposes gives him “hope” that extensions and amendments meant to help student parents and parenting staff will eventually become standard policy.

For others, the announcement of the extension of expanded use of sick leave came too late.

Drake announced the extension March 3, two months after former UC President Janet Napolitano’s original expiration and the extension announcement date.

I-Wei Wang, a campus librarian at the campus School of Law library, had to pick up her daughter from in-person school with only a notice of 20 minutes because the class had to be closed down for COVID-19 contact tracing.

Wang said it would have been “very helpful” if she had known she could use accrued sick leave then.

“I spent a couple of weeks just tearing my hair out, kind of wound up,” Wang said. “I had sick leave accrued … I knew that the policy had expired as of Dec. 31, so I assumed I couldn’t use sick leave.”

Wang is also a member of the University Council-American Federation of Teachers, a union that represents librarians and lecturers. She said her union was not notified of the extension of the policy change or of the fact that librarians could participate, adding that lecturers “do not actually accrue sick leave.”

As of press time, the extension only applies to policy-covered staff employees. According to Cervantes, however, a similar expansion of the use of sick leave may be available to represented staff after collective bargaining.

“It often feels like the university sort of recognizes these issues and has its heart in the right place, but is doing too little and too late,” Wang said.

Contact Iris Kwok at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @iriskkwok.