When NC State’s Council on the Status of Women started its effort to get a paid parental leave policy implemented, the task seemed insurmountable, one of its members said.
“It seemed like there were so many mountains in front of us to overcome,” said Lisa LaBarbera-Mascote, an ex officio council member and director of the Women’s Center.
But the council’s efforts ended up paying off. The UNC System Board of Governors passed a paid parental leave policy in September. The policy is set to be implemented in early 2020.
The policy provides eight weeks of paid parental leave for eligible employees who give birth to a child. Nonbirth parents, including adoptive and foster parents, are eligible for four weeks of paid parental leave.
“We are just so excited to have a policy for a purpose that’s this important,” said Joy Davis, chair of the council’s policy subcommittee. “It matters, not just for recruiting and retaining talent, but also for families and their long-term health. We are very thrilled.”
NC State has established a work group to help implement the policy.
The council first began to have discussions about a paid parental leave policy in 2015.
At first, the council’s aim was to convince NC State to create a paid parental leave policy. A group comprising council members and other concerned NC State employees organized to develop a policy proposal.
But as the team started doing extensive research into paid parental leave and NC State’s leave policies, members recognized that if a change was going to be made, it needed to be for all institutions in the UNC System, LaBarbera-Mascote said.
“We know that when we think about recruitment and retention of faculty and staff, paid parental leave is key,” LaBarbera-Mascote said. “Giving parents time, space and support is crucial for their personal health, work-life balance and well-being, and it provides long-term benefits for the organization as well.”
The council sought the support from NC State leadership, the UNC System and other stakeholders as it tried to push its proposal for paid parental leave. It was successful in its efforts.
But LaBarbera-Mascote said she believes a turning point for the council’s proposal came when Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order giving paid parental leave to employees who work at state agencies that report to him.
“I think that was 100% one of the best things that could have happened to help push this initiative forward,” she said.
For Eva Feucht, director of the Park Scholarships program at NC State, the policy is a game changer. She has been vocal about the need for a paid parental leave policy, and she was part of the Council on the Status of Women’s work group.
“I think this is a really good first step,” said Feucht, a mother of two who is expecting a third child. “It will undoubtedly change the lives of the employees who will be eligible for the benefit. It will also improve the workplace for all of us.”