Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Proposed Childbearing/Childrearing Leave Policy

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Proposed Childbearing/Childrearing Policy

Q. What is the difference between a childbearing leave and a childrearing leave?

A. Only female faculty members who bear a child can take a childbearing leave. Any female or male faculty member can take a childrearing leave.

Q. Who can take a childbearing or childrearing leave?

A. Only female faculty members who bear a child may request to take a childbearing leave. Otherwise, any male or female faculty members may request to take a childrearing leave.

Q. If a female or male faculty member welcomes a new child over the summer are they eligible for a childrearing leave?

A. Yes, a female or male faculty member can request a childrearing leave in the fall. If a female faculty member bears a child less than six weeks before the start of the fall semester, she may be eligible for a childbearing leave or a combined childbearing/childrearing leave.

Q. Does the policy appreciate the uncertainty involved in many adoption cases in which the timing of the adoption is often unpredictable?

A. Yes. The faculty member planning the adoption should work with the Provost/Dean and her/his supervisor to determine various options regarding the timing of the leave.

Q. Why must a faculty member apply for a childbearing or childrearing leave? Under what circumstances would a leave be denied?

A. Like all leaves, faculty members must apply for a childbearing or childrearing leave in order for her/his supervisor and the Provost/Dean to be able to plan for their absence from the classroom. Hence, the application facilitates planning. Requests for childbearing or childrearing leaves consistent with the policy will not be denied.

Q. Doesn’t the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allow for new parents to receive up to six weeks paid leave?

A. No. FMLA requires covered employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to “eligible” employees for certain family and medical reasons, including care for a child after birth or adoption. (See for more information.) The proposed childbearing/childrearing leave policy provides paid leave for up to one semester in length.

Q. If a faculty member takes a childbearing or childrearing leave, what happens to their eligibility for tenure or sabbatical?

A. As stated in the policy, leaves of absence that are one semester or longer normally do not count toward determining eligibility for tenure and sabbaticals. That is, a faculty member who takes a one semester childrearing leave normally would have her/his sabbatical or tenure delayed by one year. An untenured faculty member who takes a shorter leave of absence or no leave at all when a child arrives has the option of “stopping the tenure clock.”

Q. Why aren’t childbearing leaves at full pay?

A. The University provides short-term disability for any medically related absence from work for a short period of time including the birth of a child. In particular, IWU’s short-term disability program begins on the 31st day of continuous disability, and provides monthly income for a period of up to 22 weeks amounting to 70% of current compensation. “Short-term disability” is the terminology used by insurance companies and the federal government to describe the type of coverage available to employees for replacement of a certain percentage of income during an illness or medical condition that prevents the employee from working for a set period of time.

Q. Why doesn’t the policy provide childbearing leave during the summer?

A. Most faculty members have nine or ten month contracts and are not under contract during the summer. The policy was developed to provide time off during the academic year to alleviate pressures arising from formal classroom teaching and other time-rigid duties. The policy allows a faculty member who welcomes a new child during the summer to take time off during fall semester to provide time to care for a new child and reduce the responsibilities associated with being a faculty member. Those untenured faculty members who welcome a new child over the summer and decide to forgo a leave during the following academic year can request to have the tenure clock stopped. A faculty member’s productivity will naturally decline following the arrival of a new child. These policies try to address some of the time pressures that faculty members, particularly those who are untenured, face in raising a family.

Q. If a nine or ten month faculty member chooses to take a childrearing leave or combined childbearing/childrearing leave of one semester for 5/6th salary, can they teach four courses in one semester?

A. No. The faculty member would teach three courses either in the fall or spring and one course in May Term. The Provost/Dean will not approve a faculty member’s request to teach more than three courses in one semester as a part of a childbearing/childrearing leave. Note that there may be circumstances in which the 5/6th salary option is not possible to implement due to the timing of the child’s arrival.


About bethacunningham

Professor of Physics
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5 Responses to Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Proposed Childbearing/Childrearing Leave Policy

  1. Anonymous says:

    I really appreciate all the work you and others have done to get this policy developed. I’m wondering why a person taking one of these leaves MUST delay the tenure clock. If the individual has the decision to stop the clock, why not also have the option to keep it going. I understand that this would put pressure on the faculty member in some ways, but shouldn’t that be a choice? I can understand more easily why sabbatical might be delayed.

  2. The administration appreciates your interest and questions about the proposed leave policy. Concerning your question about the tenure clock, the following issues were considered as the policy was being developed.

    First, any unpaid leaves of absence for medical or other reasons do not count toward tenure or sabbatical. The faculty member taking an unpaid leave is not contributing to the university during the time of the leave. The childbearing/childrearing leave policy is similar in nature.

    Second, the untenured faculty member needs to build a case for tenure. The absence of a semester’s worth of evidence – both in their teaching as well as their scholarly or artistic accomplishments – can be critical in building a strong case.

    Third, as often the case, the year a child is welcomed can be stressful to a new parent. The amount and quality of work of a new parent typically decreases during that year.

    Finally, the policy states that faculty taking childbearing/childrearing leaves “normally do not receive credit in determining eligibility for tenure.” Special cases can be submitted to the Provost/Dean for consideration. However, the untenured faculty member will need to make a compelling case that their teaching and scholarly or artistic accomplishments were uninterrupted by the leave.

  3. Anonymous says:

    My understanding is that there is a precedent on campus for allowing a child-rearing “release” when the faculty member does not take a semester-long leave. That is, after the child comes into the family, the faculty member can teach a reduced load (2 instead of 3) in the following semester, at full pay. Would this still be an option under this policy? If so, I would like to see this included as part of the formal policy. Some faculty members may prefer to continue working or may find it burdensome to have a reduction in pay.

  4. Anonymous says:

    If a child is born in the middle of the semester, can a faculty member take only the childbearing leave? It seems reasonable that she could, but I just want to be clear that she won’t be forced to take the entire semester (i.e. the childrearing leave) simply based on her due date being in the middle of the semester.

    Also, will the previous concession of a course reduction in the semester following the birth of a child persist? I would hope that the options remains, because I can imagine a faculty member having a child in November, and whether due to financial reasons or tenure considerations not wanting to take the entire spring semester. The one-course reduction seems like a reasonable compromise.

  5. Regarding comments 3 and 4 about a course reduction the semester following a birth, the new policy does not include such an option. The new policy was developed to provide time off at the arrival of the child via either short term disability (childbearing leave) or one semester leave (combined childbearing/childrearing leave or childrearing leave). Another of the overarching principles in developing the policy is that it is to be easy to administer but provide faculty some choice. (See for entire list of overarching principles.) Providing many options makes the policy too cumbersome to administer and not be any different than the current situation. That is, faculty would continue to negotiate with the Provost/Dean creating a perception of “behind the door” agreements and unequal treatment of faculty. Please note that the current and proposed childbearing/childrearing policy for staff members includes a leave at the time of birth and a financial impact as well. It is essential that the policies for faculty and staff are similar in nature and impact.

    What happens if a faculty member has a child born in the middle of the semester? The faculty member can take short term disability (childbearing leave) or a childbearing/childrearing leave that semester. The faculty member would not be forced to take off the entire semester. She can choose the childbearing leave instead. The faculty member should discuss with the Provost/Dean the arrival date of the child to determine which option may work best for her.

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