Working Conditions for Laney Parents

Currently, Emory lags far behind its peers in providing reasonable benefits to students who are parents. The few benefits Emory offers to parents are inadequate or hard to access. Until there are better federal benefits for new parents, private research institutions like Emory should feel obligated to step up. 

 

Emory’s Current Parental Leave Policy

The 8-week parental leave that Emory offers to new parents is nearly impossible to take advantage of, given that a typical semester is fifteen weeks. There is no guidance on how a student might catch up after being absent for over half of a semester, or how their teaching responsibilities would be accounted for during their parental leave. Students who do wish to take an entire semester off to care for their newborn child must apply for a “leave of absence” as opposed to a “parent leave.” By taking a leave of absence, students lose their stipend for the period of leave, and risk losing their insurance as well, depending on what time of year this leave is taken. 

 

Other Universities Do Far Better

By contrast, graduate students at Yale University are offered an extra fully funded term per new child up to two children, in addition to the standard eight weeks of relief from academic  responsibilities. Stanford University offers three months of funded relief from teaching and research and extends academic milestones by up to a year for birthing parents.

Students who become parents while at Emory not only undergo academic hardships, but financial hardships as well. Emory does nothing to help students with these financial hardships. Recently, they greatly added to these hardships when, without warning, they increased the annual insurance premiums for dependents by more than a thousand dollars per dependent. This effectively amounted to a significant docking of the stipend of any parent who had their child enrolled on Emory EUSHIP insurance or any student who had a spouse enrolled in the insurance.

Harvard University, on the other hand, offers PhD students a one-time supplemental stipend payment of $6,810 to help with the additional expenses associated with a childbirth or adoption event. Yale University offers an annual subsidy for families with children of $5100 for students with children under the age of 18, with an additional $1000 for each child under 6. Yale also covers dependents’ health insurance premiums, including spouses. 

 

Our Demands

As graduate students at Emory, we call on the university to change the following policies, so that parents are not unfairly impacted academically or financially: 

Longer period of paid accommodation to care for a new child

  • International labor standards are that birthing parents should receive at least 14 weeks of leave following a childbirth experience. Studies show that even longer periods offer health benefits to both parents and children. 
      • Because an eight-week parental leave period doesn’t cover a semester, and academic milestones are not extended beyond that, Emory’s current parental accommodation has extremely limited usefulness.
  • We call on Emory to offer an extra semester of funding to new parents per child, up to two children. 


Extensions on milestones

  • If students do not receive extensions on their milestones, then by having accommodations they are being asked to do the same amount of work even faster in a more compressed amount of time than non-parents.
    • For students who take parental leave, we call for an extension of milestones by one semester. 

 

Enhanced subsidies for childcare

  • Currently, the only childcare benefit Emory offers students is The Back-Up Care Advantage Program, which provides up to ten days of emergency care per calendar year at a rate of $15/child/day with a maximum of $25/family/day for center-based child care and $6/hour for in-home child or adult care. 
    • We ask that Emory student families be included in the Emory Child Care Network, which provides discounts and subsidies for childcare at a number of facilities around Atlanta for Emory employees who aren’t students.
  • Because they don’t receive any additional subsidies for childcare, graduate students with families  have a significant additional financial burden. Additionally, for applicants with children, Emory is less welcoming when compared to a school like Yale, which does offer an annual subsidy.
    • We also call on Emory to match Yale’s annual subsidy of $5100 for students with children under the age of eighteen, with an additional $1000 for each child under the age of six. 

 

A one-time supplemental payment to help cover birth and adoption costs

    • Pregnancy, childbirth, and adoption bring on a number of additional costs which can financially burden graduate student families. 
    • We call on Emory to provide a one-time supplemental payment of $7000 to new parents to help cover birth and adoption costs

 

No risk of losing health insurance during a semester-long leave of absence

  • The fact that students who take a leave of absence risk losing their health insurance is unacceptable. In many cases, this is one of the most important times for a student to have health insurance, for their own health and that of their families. 
  • At the very least, all students should be able to take a full semester’s leave without worrying about losing this benefit. 


Health Insurance Coverage for Dependents

    • Insurance premiums for dependents are one avenue through which Emory can unilaterally pass on costs to graduate students. This year, with the pandemic still active, Emory raised annual premiums by more than a thousand dollars per dependent.
    • We call for dependent insurance coverage to be included in a graduate student’s benefits package. 

 

More clarity about policies

  • It needs to be the baseline assumption that grad students have a chance of having a child during the course of their program. Every student who enters the program needs to be oriented on what exact benefits are afforded to them and what exact steps they need to take to receive accommodations. 
    • We call for all academic chairs and new students to be educated on benefits, and for increased clarity around the following issues on Emory’s websites:
      • how taking a leave of absence affects insurance
      • how a student might take a parental leave and come back in the middle of a semester and complete course or teaching requirement. Currently rules and procedures around these parental leaves are not well-defined.
      • Students’ rights around lactation breaks during class

 

References

Emory's Parental Accommodation policy

Emory Backup Childcare Program

Harvard GSAS Parental Accommodation and Financial Support (PAFS) Program

Yale University PhD Student Health Insurance Coverage

Yale University Family Policy

Stanford University Pregnancy, Childbirth, Adoption and Lactation Policy