Correction: A previous version of this editorial misstated UNC's paid leave policy. While four weeks of paid leave are available immediately to the birth parent, there are four additional weeks available to be taken any time in the following 12 months.The article has updated to reflect the change. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.
The Editorial Board applauds UNC for beginning to grant two types of four-week paid family leave beginning in January, particularly for being equitable in providing the benefit to all staff, non-faculty and part-time workers. The policy allows for four weeks of paid leave immediately following childbirth for the birth parent, and another four weeks of paid bonding leave to both parents within the next 12 months. Yet it’s dangerous to become complacent in congratulations, and the Board encourages the University to extend their new paid leave policy.
According to a 2012 study by the Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics, having less than eight weeks of paid maternal leave is associated with increases in depressive symptoms and a reduction in overall health for mothers. Women who have at least 12 weeks of paid parental leave are also more likely to begin breastfeeding their child and continue breastfeeding for 6 months, according to a study published in the peer-reviewed journal, Birth.
A 12-week paid leave program wouldn’t just help low-income mothers stave off postpartum depression and allow them to bond with their infants; it would help the local economy, especially for the sake of gender parity. Economists have found paid leave programs increase the probability that mothers return to the workforce, working more hours and earning higher wages.
The University is not alone in its need to expand its paid leave policy.