NIU expands parental leave, sick benefits to support caregivers

Employees will have more paid time off to care for new babies, themselves and immediate family members as part of policy changes recently approved by NIU leaders.

The changes are the latest in a series of new benefits recognizing the importance of work-life balance, President Lisa Freeman said. A 3% salary increment for eligible employees went into effect this summer—the second increment in three years—and the NIU Board of Trustees recently approved a new differential tuition benefit.

“Investing in our employees is a priority for NIU’s leadership, and we are continuously looking at meaningful ways to improve and modernize our employee benefits,” President Freeman said.

Effective retroactively to Monday, July 1, 2019, the university now offers up to five continuous weeks (25 days) of paid leave to eligible employees to care for new babies or children welcomed through adoption or foster care.

The time allowed under the newly created Parental Leave of Absence will run concurrently with the time provided under the Family Medical Leave Act. Human Resource Services will reach out to eligible employees who welcomed new children after July 1, 2019. Those who did not apply for leave can do so through the new policy.

“We also know that our employees can face life events beyond welcoming new children, and we want to be sensitive to those who are challenged by other family care responsibilities,” President Freeman said.

With this in mind, NIU leaders revised the university’s non-accumulative leave benefits to now include five additional days. Those days can be used by employees to not only care for themselves, but also for immediate family members who are unwell.

Dr. Freeman credited the work of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women as the stimulus behind the improvements. The commission conducted a 2018 employee survey about experiences and perceptions related to the Family and Medical Leave Act and used the data to develop recommendations for President Freeman. Human Resource Services finalized the details, and the Board of Trustees unanimously approved the changes last week.

“The new benefits stem from employee feedback and recognize the importance of work-life balance,” President Freeman said. “It is my hope that they will allow us to continue to retain and attract wonderful employees.”

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