Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2019

La Fonda McWilliams-Wyatt, husband Dwight and Shawn, Jr.

La Fonda McWilliams-Wyatt and Brett Tavel know first-hand how important it is to be able to spend time at home with new family members.

McWilliams-Wyatt recently secured full legal placement of her eight-year-old godchild. Tavel and his wife, Alysa, welcomed a newborn son.

McWilliams-Wyatt and Tavel are classified state employees at the VCCS system office, and both were able to enjoy the state’s new parental leave policy, in effect since last summer through executive order from Governor Ralph Northam.

“I couldn’t possibly have managed it all without the family leave,” said McWilliams-Wyatt. “This was a huge transition for all of us, but thanks to our time together, Shawn, Jr. has adjusted beautifully, is an honor roll student and active in several sports.”

“Max had some early medical needs and was colicky,” said Tavel. “It was pretty intense the first few weeks, not much sleep. But being able to be home and work through everything made a big difference for our family’s well-being.”

Research shows that paid leave for employees with new arrivals strengthens families and promotes good health for children. It also helps the VCCS and other organizations recruit and retain top talent.

State government’s new parental leave policy for classified employees, including the VCCS’s roughly 3,300 classified workers, went into effect last summer, providing eight weeks (320 hours) of paid leave for new childbirths, adoptions or court approved placement of children younger than 18. To be eligible, employees need one year of full-time service on the job, must use the benefit within six months of the birth or placement, and must return to work for at least six months afterwards.

The VCCS Human Resources Department worked closely with a task force of college administrators and faculty representatives on the much more complex task of crafting an equitable parental leave policy for the VCCS’s nearly 2,900 leave-eligible faculty employees, many of whom work through nine-month contracts. The 2,900 figure includes 2,300 teaching faculty, plus an additional 600 VCCS employees who are administrative and professional faculty, positions such as counselors, librarians, deans, and college vice presidents.

The VCCS parental leave policy provides substantial flexibility to deans and college administrators who must take into account the needs of teaching faculty who are new parents, and the needs of colleges to manage their teaching schedules to ensure courses are available to students to complete their programs.

Brett Tavel, wife Alysa and new son, Max.

The policy recognizes there are many variables with teaching faculty that do not exist with other employees. The goal is not to disadvantage faculty members or our students. The policy encourages negotiations at the college level to find arrangements that work in everyone’s interests. Figuring out the best policy framework required numerous meetings with faculty, deans, academic VPs and presidents.

The VCCS State Board approved the new policy at its meeting January 17. Click here to access the new VCCS parental leave policy for faculty (scroll down to policy

“Enacting parental leave will serve as an excellent recruitment tool as more baby boomers retire and younger faculty members replace them,” said NOVA professor Charles Errico, chairman of the Chancellor’s Faculty Advisory Committee (CFAC). “Budget priorities reflect the character of an organization. Funding the parental leave policy that CFAC proposed conveys that the VCCS understands and appreciates the importance of family values.”

To read Dr. Errico’s full essay on the new faculty parental leave policy for faculty, click here

In all cases, when and how parental leave is taken by faculty members is subject to approval by the appropriate vice president/provost at their college.'

Jim Babb

Jim Babb works for Virginia's Community Colleges in the Office of Strategic Communications.

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