Policy 14: The business case for a new pregnancy and parental leave policy

This is the first in a series of posts by Bryan Tolson about the revised pregnancy and parental leave policy (P14). Bryan was a FAUW representative on the drafting committee for P14 and is FAUW’s Past President.

After years of work, the Policy 14 Drafting Committee has delivered a revised policy that substantially improves pregnancy and parental leave benefits for UW employees. FAUW expects that the President will bring it for information to Senate on March 22 and for approval to the Board of Governors on April 6. Once approved, it will be in effect immediately.

The business case for improved pregnancy and parental leave is clear

On Monday, I will make the policy case for the new Policy 14. Today, I want to make the business case.

The revised Policy 14 can help the University of Waterloo with the huge challenge that it faces in recruiting and retaining female faculty members in general and female Canada Research Chairs (CRCs) in particular.

  • Waterloo has the lowest percentage of faculty who identify as female in the U15 universities (based on 2019 data)—31.3% (see Figure 1 below). The next lowest university is almost 5% higher than UW. We are also last among all Ontario universities.
  • This dismal showing is in spite of UW’s recent efforts, such as He4She, to increase female faculty representation. For example, in 2014, UW’s percentage was 29.4%—that’s a very small increase over five years.
  • In only eight years, by 2029, the federal government has mandated that UW must have 51% female representation in both Tier 1 and Tier 2 CRCs. We are currently at 27%. That is a huge gap to fill.
Figure 1. Percentage of full-time, regular, faculty members who identify as female; U15 comparison for 2019. Source: https://uwaterloo.ca/institutional-analysis-planning/university-data-and-statistics/faculty-data/faculty-gender

Policy 14 can help Waterloo meet the CRC target and catch up to our U15 competitors

It is not a coincidence that Waterloo is an outlier for female faculty numbers and that it currently provides effectively the lowest supplemental benefit levels for faculty on pregnancy and parental leave of all Ontario universities. The tables below highlight our current rank within Ontario universities for supplemental pregnancy benefit levels and what the revised Policy 14 would achieve.

Waterloo is currently 16th out of 18 Ontario universities when considering maximum available supplemental benefit levels provided to faculty birth parents, (UW’s benefits are the equivalent of 22.2 weeks of leave at 100% salary). The median University has 25% higher benefit levels than UW. The proposed policy draft moves UW tothird out of 18 Universities, with benefitsequivalent to 34.0 weeks of leave at 100% salary.

The new Policy 14 can be a crucial factor in helping us achieve our CRC targets and substantially increasing our female faculty numbers. This is a key reason the Board of Governors and the University should want to approve this revised policy as soon as possible.

In addition to better supplemental benefits, the revised Policy 14 also eliminates serious structural inequities for female faculty members.

The Policy 14 consultation package (PDF) highlights the major improvements and equity wins and provides the rationale for all changes. Feedback from the UW community during consultation was overwhelmingly in favour of the changes (70/70 individual responses to FAUW were strongly supportive). But by far the most common feedback was a question: When will this be implemented?

The business case is clear: The University of Waterloo needs the revised Policy 14 as soon as possible.

In the next post, I recount the long, sad history of this policy revision process, and make the case for the new P14 on the basis of policy development and terms of employment for our members.

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