Recuperation leave — paid leave intended for physical recovery from childbirth — can only be taken by the birth parent directly after giving birth.
Bonding leave can be granted to birth and non-birth parents at any point within the first year following childbirth, adoption, foster care placement or other legal placement.
The new benefit will run concurrently with the Family and Medical Leave Act, a federal requirement that provides up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave.
The UNC System Board of Governors approved offering the paid leave benefit to eligible employees at all 17 system schools on Sept. 20, 2019. Universities were directed to implement the policy between Jan. 1 and April 30, Flickinger said.
The policy’s eligibility requirements and amount of leave offered will be the same across universities, but when each school implements the policy and how each school administratively manages it will differ.
UNC is one of the first schools to implement the policy, Flickinger said.
She said the Office of Human Resources wanted the policy to take effect as quickly as possible so employees could start using it.
“It’s going to lower people’s anxiety,” Erica Guestin, a benefits business analyst at UNC, said. “I think there is just so much happening in your life when you have a kid that thinking about how you are going to be out of work and stay paid is the last thing you want to think about, but obviously is a huge thing to think about.”
Prior to this implementation, Guestin, like other University employees, relied on accrued time — either sick or vacation leave — to remain paid while staying home with her newborn daughter in January 2018.
With a second son born in October 2019, she said it was challenging to accumulate much accrued time since she wanted to have her kids close in age.
Using the bonding leave will allow Guestin to stay home another month with her newborn, which she said she appreciates because babies change a lot in a small time frame.
“It’s great for the mental health of parents,” Guestin said. “It’s just such a strain to have to think about the finances when you shouldn’t be — you should be thinking about your little one.”
Full-time or part-time SHRA and EHRA Non-Faculty employees in a permanent, probationary or time-limited position who have worked in North Carolina for at least the past 12 months in pay status for 1,040 hours or more are eligible to use the new leave benefits.
Faculty members are not eligible for the benefit since they are already similarly covered under the Faculty Serious Illness, Major Disability and Parental Leave Policy. Temporary and part-time University employees are also excluded from receiving the benefit.
The Office of Human Resources created a Paid Parental Leave Toolkit that contains an overview of the policy and frequently asked questions as a resource for UNC employees wanting to learn more about the new benefit.
“People are excited and feel very positive about it, and this is a big step I would say for the University as an employer of choice,” Flickinger said. “It is an important benefit that we weren’t previously offering that can certainly help us recruit and retain talented folks at Carolina.”