Crowdsourcing parental leave policies for tenure track faculty

The goal of this post is to provide a place where people can report about the official (and unofficial) parental leave policies at their colleges and universities. The idea is that, while there’s surely no “typical” parental leave policy, it would help to have some idea of what the range of options is. Hopefully by showing what is possible, some people will be able to advocate for improved policies at their institutions!

This survey is specifically about tenure track faculty. We know there are many other positions at universities, including students, postdoctoral researchers, research associates, teaching faculty, and many others, and recognize that policies differ for these different groups. Our goal here is to start by surveying tenure track faculty to get a sense of the range of policies for this type of position. We’re hoping to expand to other position types in the future; please leave suggestions for which types of positions you’d like this resource for in the comments! (Also note that Margaret Kosmala has compiled information on maternity leave for postdocs at several institutions in the US.)

Note: this post was prompted by a conversation with Tracy Teal (Data Carpentry), who provided helpful feedback on an earlier draft. Thanks, Tracy!

In the comments, please leave information on:
College/university name (optional, but helpful to include)
City/town & state name (optional)
College/university type (e.g., SLAC, R1, community college, etc.)
Official parental leave policy, including information on whether it applies to both birth and non-birth parents, whether it includes adoptions, and any other useful information.
Website with official leave policy:
Unofficial leave policy: do people actually take the leave that is offered? If no leave is officially offered, is there a typical workaround that people tend to use? [My guess is these unofficial things will often be department-specific]
Tenure clock stoppage: Is stoppage of the tenure clock linked with parental leave? Is it automatic?
Dual academic career parents: If both parents are at the university, do they share leave time or do each get their own leave?
Consideration for other health issues before or after leave: Is there any official policy if there are health issues during pregnancy or after the time of official leave?
Other information:

Here’s an example from my university, which has a really great leave policy:
Country: US
College/university name: University of Michigan
City/town & state name: Ann Arbor, MI
College/university type R1
Official parental leave policy: non-birth parents (including fathers and adoptive parents) get one semester of modified duties (typically interpreted to mean one semester release from teaching and possibly also reduced service that semester); birth parents get two semesters of modified duties
Website with official leave policy:
Unofficial leave policy: many people take the one semester of modified duties. The second semester for birth parents is fairly new, so I don’t have a sense yet for how commonly people take it (but know several people – myself included – who have)
Tenure clock stoppage: Requires clicking a box on the same form that requests the modified duties
Dual academic career parents: Both parents can take their leave. Both parents can be on modified duties in the same semester.
Consideration for other health issues before or after leave: I think that health issues for the mom would get covered under the two semesters of leave. I know one person who used one of her two semesters before the birth of her child due to pregnancy-related health problems. I don’t think she got a third semester because of those health problems, but I’m not 100% sure.
Other information: This piece has a quote from the former dean of Michigan’s Ross School of Management, Alison Davis-Blake, who pioneered the new policy with two semesters of leave for birth mothers:


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4 thoughts on “Crowdsourcing parental leave policies for tenure track faculty

  1. Country: Australia
    College/university name: University of Queensland
    City/town & state name: Brisbane, QLD
    College/university type: Equivalent to R1 (called G8 in Australia, typically in top 100 world ranks)
    Official parental leave policy:
    -A staff member who has a confirmed pregnancy may take 36.25 hours paid Pre-Natal Leave to attend appointment(s) directly related to their pregnancy, subject to approval by the Authorised Officer.
    -entitled to 2 days of unpaid Pre-Adoption Leave to attend interviews or examinations required in to obtain approval for the adoption of a child.
    -26 weeks paid Parental Leave when: the staff member gives birth and will be the primary caregiver of the child; or the staff member will be the primary caregiver of an adopted child, where
    the child is less than five years of age; and the child has not lived continuously with the staff member for a period of 6 months or more; and the child is not the child of the staff member’s partner. A staff member may apply for the paid Parental or Adoption Leave to be taken proportionally over 52 weeks (for example at half pay for 52 weeks) to the Authorised Officer. The total period of paid Parental or Adoption Leave must not exceed 52 weeks from the date of birth or placement of the child. The paid Parental or Adoption Leave must commence no later than the date of birth or placement of the child. In the case of birth related Parental Leave (paid or unpaid), the pregnant staff member may start Parental Leave up to 6 weeks before the expected date of the birth of the child or earlier if mutually agreed. In the event the staff member elects to work during the 6 weeks before the expected birth date, a medical certificate stating the staff member is fit for work may be required. Paid Parental or Adoption Leave may be shared between staff members who are partners and both work at The University of Queensland
    – A staff member who is not a primary caregiver but shares the parenting responsibilities for a child will be entitled to two weeks paid Parental Leave

    Unofficial leave policy: Not sure, but I think the leave can be taken as a father in a partnership with someoneelse who gave birth, as long as they were the primary caregiver. I don’t think the “gives birth” part is held in practice, as I know of men who took long paternity leaves. But I could be wrong on that. They may have taken unpaid leave (but I doubt it).
    Tenure clock stoppage: Tenure is not a thing here. There are continuing positions usually with a 2-3 year probationary period which is passed as long as you don’t mess up (e.g. as long as you apply for grants and publish something). If the department is unhappy with your research output, your teaching load is usually adjustable. E.g. you could go from teaching 3 courses a year to 5 because your research wasn’t good enough. Continuing positions are very hard to get in Australia, most positions at the level of what would be equivalent to assistant professor in the US are for a fixed term (like a US postdoc). I do not see anything about delaying a probationary period review.
    Consideration for other health issues before or after leave: not-sure

  2. Country: United States
    University: University of California, Berkeley.
    Location: Berkeley
    Website of official policy:
    Official Policy: Please see the website for the official policy. Here follows my understanding/experience with the official policy, which should not be confused with a statement of UC’s official policy (see the charts at the end of the document). Roughly speaking, birth mothers receive 2 semesters / 2 quarters (Berkeley & some professional schools use semesters, the rest are on quarters), of active service, modified duties (ASMD, usually meaning teaching relief) non-birth partner can qualify for 1 semester/quarter (signing that they assume >= 50% responsibility for care).
    Tenure clock stoppage: Either parent (that is, qualifying individual for qualifying event, see official literature) can push back the tenure calendar by 1 year. This is not automatic but requires a separate form; I also understand it can later be reversed.
    Dual career: I believe both partners can take this independently.
    Health considerations: I believe these would be covered by independent medical leave policies.
    Unofficial policy: While the policies are UC wide, I understand that norms differ between fields/departments, and maybe to a lesser extent between campuses. In my department it seems things are basically by the book, with norms consistent with campus / system-wide policy.

  3. Country: USA

    College/university name: University of Maine

    City/town & state name: Orono, Maine

    College/university type: R2, state land grant

    Official Policy: In a nutshell, mothers can take paid disability leave for 6 weeks after birth of a child, for 6-12 weeks with supervisor approval, and 12 weeks to 6 months for a serious medical condition (with doctors certificate), and can be extended past 6 months by applying for long-term disability leave. This is all predicated on having enough accrued disability leave, and it applies to all University Employees. I’ve been in an Asst. Prof position for almost 4 years, and I’ve accrued just over 600 hours of sick leave – presumably 15 or so weeks work, although that’s a little unclear as faculty aren’t paid hourly.

    Mothers can also request additional leave after they are capable of returning to work (and don’t qualify for disability leave) by taking accrued annual leave, comp time, or take leave without pay, for up to a year. BUT, as opposed to hourly employees, tenure track faculty do not accrue annual leave or comp time (at least I haven’t) so this implies that if you’re a tt faculty, you get 6 weeks minimum, and longer only if you have documented medical reasons for not returning to work OR if you can afford to take unpaid leave. Also all of this requires you’ve worked for the University for at least a year.

    The story is pretty similar for partners of women who gave birth, but the timelines are shorter. For example, to qualify for disability leave to care for the mother a partner needs a doctor’s note after 10 days and can only take it for a maximum of 30 days, annual or unpaid leave can only be taken for a maximum of six months.

    Many of these policies are extended, with certain additional conditions, to adoption and for other family-balance issues like caring for sick or elderly family member.

    Faculty members have the option to stop the tenure clock (for 1 year), and also can request an exemption from teaching for a semester. However for the teaching release, the faculty’s department is allowed (expected?) to assign additional non-teaching duties (e.g. advising, administration) to compensate for the lost teaching time, so this is really designed to give people a more flexible schedule after child birth, not less work per se. Interestingly the Provost’s office will pay to cover one course, whereas the College/Department is expected to cover the rest (

    Website with official leave policy:

    Unofficial leave policy: My wife and I had a son in January, and we didn’t take advantage of any of the University policies. She does some adjunct teaching and (compensated) advising in the department; she didn’t teach during the spring semester and was able to condense all her advising into a 2-week stretch a few months after he was born. My TT position (50:50 teaching/research) covers our insurance and allows us to comfortably live on one income, and we feel really fortunate that she’s been able to take 7 months off. Prior to getting pregnant, I’d already gotten a teaching release for the spring semester because I’d been teaching over my contract up to that point, and with a 50% research appointment I wanted to focus on research for a semester. This gave me a flexible enough schedule, so that after the first few weeks I could still hang out and help at home while also keeping up with grad students and collaborations. Much of this is helped by the fact that we’re in a great department with faculty and leadership who appreciate and support work-life balance, and I have a lab full of fantastic students that understood I needed to be flexible with my home schedule. I think that can make all the difference, and from my perspective the policies our University have are ok IF you have a good supportive department. I can imagine it being much more difficult, especially for a pre-tenure woman, if your department wasn’t so supportive, and I fully acknowledge that as a father balancing a newborn with work responsibilities was much easier for me.

    Tenure clock stoppage: Yes

    Dual academic career parents: Independent as near as I can tell

    Consideration for other health issues before or after leave: There are options for long-term disability coverage but seems like that is a situational thing. I imagine there’s opportunity for sick/disability leave before birth in the case of complications but

    Other information: Here’s our University’s official page on work-life balance:

  4. Here’s one that someone sent me by email:
    Country: USA
    College/university name: University of Georgia
    City/town & state name: Athen, GA
    College/university type (e.g., SLAC, R1, community college, etc.): R1

    Official parental leave policy: There is no official parental leave policy. Sick days may be taken for maternity leave. The entire policy is posted below.

    Policy Statement
    Sick leave can be taken for any incapacity related to pregnancy and for the mother’s recovery after birth, generally, 6-8 weeks as recommended by her physician. Sick leave (with and without pay) policies apply for absences related to pregnancy and post-partum recovery.
    The Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (2010) and Georgia state law (O.C.G.A. 34-1-6) provide that a nursing mother shall have the opportunity to express breast milk for her infant during work hours. If employees request accommodations for breastfeeding, units should contact the Office of Faculty & Staff Relations regarding their responsibilities in accordance with federal and state regulations.

    Website with official leave policy:

    Unofficial leave policy: Individual units can make agreements with faculty. It is not generally known or discussed, so it is difficult to know what is happening. As there is no leave policy without taking sick leave, it is unclear what most people do. Additionally, it takes a significant amount of time to build up 6-8 weeks of sick leave, so I am not sure how many people could actually take that much time.

    Tenure clock stoppage: Is stoppage of the tenure clock linked with parental leave? Is it automatic?

    No. You must write a letter describing the reason for requesting an extension; the date of the qualifying event(s); an explanation of how the event(s) substantially burdened (or will burden) progress to tenure; and, outline of the specific work for which progress has been (or will be) hampered. This must be done for the birth, adoption, or death of a child.

    Dual academic career parents: If both parents are at the university, do they share leave time or do each get their own leave?
    This does not apply at UGA.

    Consideration for other health issues before or after leave: Is there any official policy if there are health issues during pregnancy or after the time of official leave?

    See above information. If you do not have enough sick leave, I am not sure what would happen.

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