Policy 14: The unbelievably long history of revising our pregnancy and parental leave policy

This is the second 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.

In Friday’s post, I made the business case for the revised Policy 14 (Pregnancy and Parental Leave).

Today I want to make a more fundamental point about policies and policy revision here at the University of Waterloo and ask: Can it work?

Waterloo, like McMaster and (to a lesser degree) Toronto,1 uses policy to govern many of the terms and conditions of our employment: appointments, tenure, promotion, ethical behaviour, intellectual property, etc. Some policies relate to faculty only (F policies); some apply to faculty and staff (FS); some apply to everyone (G). FAUW only has a formal role in F and FS policy revision—even though faculty might have a special interest in the application of some G policies (e.g. Policy 73 Intellectual Property Rights).

How this policy development structure works in practice

The bad news is that Waterloo has failed to successfully revise any F or FS Policy (there are 21 such Policies) since 2012. Delay—unconscionable delay—has made policy development grind to a halt for many years now. 

I’m going to tell you my story of revising Policy 14, Pregnancy and Parental Leave. I call it my story because I have dedicated almost 1000 hours to Policy 14 improvements from as far back as 2013 with FAUW (and even in 2007 & 2008 as Co-Chair of the Women in Engineering Committee), and because I’m writing from my own perspective as a participant in the process (as FRC member and Policy Drafting Committee member).

Here’s the timeline starting in 2013:

  • September 2013. I join the Faculty Relations Committee (FRC) and in my first FRC meeting help FAUW bring concerns about Policy 14 to the administration.
  • November 2014. FRC agrees to revise Policy 14 after more than a year of discussions.
  • May 2017: The Policy 14 Drafting Committee (PDC) meets for the first time. Note: This is almost three years after FAUW and the administration agreed to start the process.
  • Three more years pass with good but slow work on revising the actual policy.
  • August 26, 2020: The PDC submits a draft policy to the FRC/SRC co-chairs (SRC being the Staff Relations Committee). Policy 1 allows FRC/SRC to request revisions at this point. The policy is available for the administration/FAUW/the Staff Association (UWSA) to consult their teams, as needed.
  • Nov 5, 2020: FRC passes a motion to proceed with public consultation as required by Policy 1 (SRC agrees on November 9). FAUW believes that the policy is on track for approval at the February Board of Governors meeting.
  • Nov 27, 2020 – Dec 18, 2020: Public consultation period.
  • Today, March 8, 2021: We’re all still waiting for the policy to be approved, and are now aiming for the April Board of Governors meeting.
  • March 22, 2021: We expect President Hamdullahpur to bring Policy 14 for information to Senate.
  • April 6, 2021: We expect that Policy 14 will be on the Board of Governors agenda for approval.

This is my story of working on Policy 14. At every step of the way, FAUW and its members pushed for timely processes. I pushed to keep things moving. I really wanted to help improve pregnancy and parental leave benefits before my time at FAUW was up, because I’ve seen how much these benefits matter to our members, especially women. But delays slowed every step, to the detriment of many members and other employees.

This is also your story

First, you may have been eligible for pregnancy and parental leave over the past seven years, and you could and should have received better benefits. There are hundreds of you.

Even now, we are not sure of the April approval. Isn’t it time for the administration to set everyone’s mind at ease by assuring us now that Policy 14 will be on the Board of Governors agenda in April? If Policy 14 is approved and thus comes into effect in April, future parents can breathe a sigh of relief.

Second, and as important, Policy 14 is only one policy out of many. What do you think needs improving here at Waterloo? How much time do you think is reasonable to make those improvements? Are you willing to spend seven years or longer to change one policy?

Policy 14 approval at the April Board of Governors meeting will at least assure us that there is an endpoint—an approval—to long policy processes. But we all need to step up our game and work toward more timely and effective policy development in general.

Stay tuned for more in this Policy 14 series later this week.

[1] Faculty members at the other Ontario universities have their terms and conditions of employment governed by collective agreements negotiated with well-understood practices: good faith bargaining, clear timelines, and access to mediation/conciliation, with arbitration/strike/lockout as ultimate end points.

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