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Work/life policies and programs are of keen concern on campus

| 16 October 2003

Congress proclaimed October National Work and Family Month. How is that relevant for people who work on campus? Here at Berkeley, it’s long been acknowledged that for faculty and staff to stay productive, they need support to balance the demands of work and family.

“With the UC system and our communities grappling with this difficult economy, it’s all the more challenging to address work while attending to family obligations,” says Carol Hoffman, manager of Work/Life and co-chair of the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Dependent Care. “We want to encourage people to use the policies, benefits, and programs that we have in place here.”

There’s certainly a high awareness of the importance of work/family resources on campus, if the results of a recent survey of ladder-rank faculty (those with tenure or who are on the tenure track) are any indication. Respondents expressed a strong desire for improving and adding policies and programs relating to work/family issues. Graduate Division Dean Mary Ann Mason and Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Equity Angelica Stacy, the principal investigators of the Work/Family Initiative, will use results from the survey, funded by an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grant, to develop a family-friendly package for UC ladder-rank faculty (see earlier Berkleyan article at www.berkeley.edu/news/berkeleyan/2003/04/30_facfam.shtml).

One policy that has long been in place is the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which applies to care of self, spouse, domestic partner, parent, or child for a serious health condition. Childbirth and postnatal care both fall under the act’s provisions. This means that both fathers and mothers can take time to bond with a new child — a fact that may be news to fathers. A new dad is entitled to 12 weeks of leave for the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child — provided he has worked at the university for 12 consecutive months and 1,250 hours. Though the time off is unpaid, fathers can use vacation or sick leave (depending on their department) and continue to draw benefits. Best of all, there’s no need to feel apologetic about taking FMLA, since it is a federal right.

Chris Little, an administrative assistant in University Health Services took three and two months off respectively to get to know his son and daughter after his wife returned to work. “Being at home alone with a baby was a little daunting at first,” Little says, “but it ended up empowering me as a parent and building my confidence.” While foregoing the paycheck was hard, Little says, “that was nothing compared to the benefits I got from bonding with the kids.”

When those kids get older, Berkeley may welcome them to its newest preschool facility. The campus recently received matching funds from the UC Office of the President to build a new childcare center for 125 children of faculty, staff, and students. Fundraising and planning for the new center, which will augment the capacity of existing centers, are underway.

Parents and guardians should also note that the California Family School Partnership Act allows them to take off up to 40 hours per year to participate in activities related to their child’s education, such as field trips, parent/teacher conferences, and classroom volunteering. While this is a state right, those taking advantage of it must provide adequate notice so their department can address their absence. This leave is unpaid, though parents are allowed to use vacation time.

For more information on these and other work/family policies, benefits, services, or programs, visit workandfamily.chance.berkeley.edu. Hoffman suggests that you consult with Human Resources before finalizing any decisions regarding use of family-related policies and benefits.