UIndy Should Have Paid Parental Leave, but the Problem is Statewide

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In December of 2021, I wrote an opinion article for The Reflector on my belief that paid parental leave should be available to everyone in the United States. It brings me no joy to say that in just over two years since that article was published, the amount of U.S. workers with access to paid parental leave has not dramatically changed. The 21% of workers reported to have paid parental leave in 2021 has only increased to 28%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While it is a subject I have remained passionate about, I felt that I had said everything I needed to in that piece—then I found out about the Family Medical Leave Act Policy at the University of Indianapolis. According to a university handbook posted online from the Office of Human Resources, UIndy complies to the bare minimum of the Family and Medical Leave Act: 12 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period. I was shocked to find out none of my professors (or anyone employed by UIndy) are guaranteed any amount of paid leave. On UIndy’s Human Resources page the university claims to have a “family-like atmosphere” for employees. However, I suppose I was incorrect to assume the university’s claims on the Internet meant it would be interested in supporting their workers’ actual families.

There is no good reason for the university to not provide paid parental leave of any kind. Although, I did wonder if it had something to do with the fact that UIndy is a private university, but I could not find any research on paid leave that differentiated between private and public universities. For comparison, Butler, another private university based in Indianapolis, provides eight weeks of paid leave within the 12 weeks allotted by federal policies, according to their website. Indiana University, a public institution, provides six weeks of paid leave, per their website. While these policies may not reflect the six months of paid leave recommended by both New America and UNICEF, they are at least a start in the right direction. 

However, UIndy is far from being the only organization in Indiana to not provide paid parental leave to its employees. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, approximately 2.6 million workers in Indiana do not have paid parental leave through their jobs, and “a typical worker who takes four weeks of unpaid leave loses more than $3,200 in income.”   Unfortunately, even unpaid leave is inaccessible to 64% of Indiana residents because they are either ineligible for paid leave under FMLA or 12 weeks of unpaid leave would be devastating financially. If more than half of a state’s population can not even qualify or afford to take the unpaid parental leave they are guaranteed by the government, then the state’s policies need to change.

Currently, only 13 states and the District of Columbia mandate paid parental leave, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center. Most of these states are commonly considered “blue states” or states whose population votes predominantly for Democratic candidates. While it makes sense that Indiana, a red state, is not on this list, I do find it all ironic. Based on the “Core Beliefs” listed on Indiana GOP’s own website, one might assume that Indiana should have the most supportive infrastructure for parents and families. “We believe in strong families. We believe that strong families, based on marriage between a man and a woman, are the foundation of society.” If that’s the case, then why are both men and women in Indiana forced to choose between work and family? 

Furthermore, according to the National Institutes of Health, “Parent–child bonding has been reported to promote children’s cognitive neurodevelopment and enables the parent–child bonding to mature into a better parent–child relationship when it is stronger. Additionally, it is an essential component of a child’s development and social well-being.” How can Hoosiers create “strong families” if they are unable to provide the bonding time necessary to positive parent-child relationships? If Indiana Republicans truly believe that families are the foundation of society, then they should be advocating for paid parental leave.

Another amusing belief shared on the Indiana GOP website is “the sanctity of life.” They say their “Republican-led legislature has consistently protected life.” Indeed, Indiana’s abortion ban went into effect in 2023. In an article by Deborah Widiss at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Widiss reports that the division between red and blue states on family leave policy mirrors their divide on abortion rights. Widiss says that in red states “women are already being forced to carry pregnancies to term that, in the past, they might have opted to terminate. These women are disproportionately likely to have very limited incomes, and disproportionately likely to be people of color. They are also disproportionately unlikely to receive paid time off from work to care for a baby as a discretionary employer benefit.” The dominant party in Indiana bases all their beliefs in families and people having babies, but does nothing in their legislature to ensure support and/or care for the lives they “protect.” If abortion is not a right, then paid leave to take care of the baby is the least the state could do. In essence, the lack of paid parental leave at UIndy is a symptom of larger issues within the state of Indiana as a whole. Unpaid parental leave negatively impacts Hoosiers emotionally and financially. When our lawmakers continue to hold us back, it’s up to the people to enact change. After all, UIndy’s website claims: “When you graduate from the University of Indianapolis, you don’t just enter the real world; you lead the way.” UIndy should lead the way by providing paid parental leave to its faculty and staff.

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