Chicago archdiocese offers new parental leave policy, extends to fathers

The Chicago archdiocese will begin July 1 offering its employees 12 weeks of paid parental leave, a move pioneered by Archbishop Blase Cupich to make the church more family-friendly, according to Catholic New World, the archdiocesan newspaper.

The new policy -- which will cost the archdiocese $1 million annually -- will also include fathers who have recently had a child or adopted, according to Catholic New World.

"Obviously we do want to be a voice for pro-life, family-friendly kinds of policies," Betsy Bohlen, chief operating officer for the diocese, told the newspaper. "The idea was to make sure that we have something that can work for all staff."

Prior to the change, female employees had to use accumulated sick days and vacation time -- up to six weeks -- for paid leave, according to the site. "For most people it worked, because they accrued sick time and used it," Bohlen told the newspaper. "In other organizations they would have lost it. Here they keep it."

The diocese also allowed up to six months of parental leave without pay for those who wanted it.

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Archdiocesan employees who work at least 26 hours a week and have been an employee for at least a month are eligible. Employees who have worked less than a year would receive one week's parental pay for every month they have worked at the archdiocese. The policy could include up to 200 employees.

The inclusion of fathers stemmed from a human resources committee discussion on how to assimilate to the world's changing family structure, the newspaper states. The diocese also hopes to attract more talent with the new policy.

Fr. Peter Wojcik, co-director of the archdiocese's Department of Parish Life and Formation, said it's time to take concrete steps in accompanying families in their faith life, citing the pope's apostolic exhortation on the family published last month, according to the site.

"It's hard to have a relationship as a family if you have to go back to work right after having a small child. Or if as a father you cannot be part of this because you can't afford to take unpaid leave and don't have a lot of time off," he said. "I think it's a practical way of saying, yes, the families are at the center of the church, the church is built on the families and families need time to be with each other and accompany each other."

A handful of archdioceses and dioceses have already begun offering parental leave including the Cincinnati archdiocese, which offers male and female chancery employees three weeks of paid leave. The three-week leave is extended to parish employees who have reached one year of employment. 

[Traci Badalucco is an NCR intern. Her email address is tbadalucco@ncronline.org.]


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