USD was recently nominated for an award because of its flexibility in granting employees leave.
The When Work Works award, a project of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), is awarded to effective and flexible workplaces nationwide.
“The focus of it was to determine if you as an employer do a good job of having a flexible schedule and is the work-life balance good, that type of thing,” said Rachael White, a Board of Regents HR representative.
The results of USD’s human resources questionnaire were in the top 20 percent, which allowed it to be nominated, White said. A total of 250 USD employees were selected randomly and sent surveys in order to make it through the next round of applicants.
Though the university ultimately wasn’t eligible for the award because it didn’t meet the 40 percent survey return requirement, White said it was an honor to be nominated.
She’ll get results from the surveys that were completed in August, she said.
Maternity and paternity leave flexibility
Though USD’s leave policies default to state and federal requirements, there are a couple ways in which USD is more flexible, White said.
“We can be more lenient, but we cannot be more strict,” she said.
One example is with maternity and paternity leave. Often, if both spouses work at the same facility, they’re only allowed to take a total of three months of leave.
“Here at USD, we offer that each employee is able to take 12 weeks of leave,” White said. “So they can take it at the same time, they can take it one right after the other, and so that’s one of the benefits of USD’s FMLA and maternity/paternity leave.”
Maternity and paternity leave fall under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a federal law which requires that work leave is provided for qualified medical and family reasons.
USD’s FMLA policy covers birth, adoption and foster child placement for all benefit-eligible employees.
There were 37 employees on maternity or paternity leave in 2016, White said.
USD parents are guaranteed six weeks off following birth. They can opt to take up to six more weeks using annual leave or vacation time, White said.
“It really depends on the person’s leave balance,” White said. “It’s really just a personal preference and I think that it really just depends on each parent.”
John Geske, USD’s housing director, and his wife Rachel Geske, who also works for the university, had their second daughter, Kennedy, on Feb. 22.
Geske said he took one week off initially and has taken a couple days off intermittently since then.
“Everybody’s been super supportive of that, so it’s been a fairly easy process for me,” he said.
Geske said he took more time off after Ridleigh, their first daughter was born two years ago.
“I’m sure a lot of parents would agree that once you’ve (had) your second child, you know a lot more about having a kid at that point than your first one,” he said.
Geske plans to take a couple more weeks off once his wife comes back from her leave, he said.
“There’s a lot of variables that go into it. For any family it’s going to be different…” he said. “A lot of it had to do with, you know, what can we afford and what can’t we afford, do we have enough time accrued to take off and still get paid, and can we make sure that we have a steady income during that time when we are taking leave. And to be very honest, for me personally, I wanted to get back to work because it was a busy time, but I know that if I had needed to take all of the 12 weeks of right off the bat, I would’ve been very supported in doing that.”