Saturday, April 13, 2024

Louisiana universities look to add paid family leave after Edwards extends benefit to state workers

by BIZ Magazine

By Piper Hutchinson, Louisiana Illuminator

Following Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ announcement that most state employees will gain access to six weeks of paid family leave, the state’s higher education systems, which are not bound by the state’s policies, are looking to adopt the same. 

The new state Civil Service rule does not apply to employees at state universities and colleges, but Louisiana’s four higher education systems have historically crafted similar policies for their own employees. 

LSU is ahead of the curve, having written policy that will mirror the state’s. It will allow up to six weeks of paid leave to a parent of any gender within three weeks of becoming a parent. It will apply to anyone employed for at least a year and go into effect Jan. 1. 

Dan Tirone, a political science professor who serves as LSU’s Faculty Senate vice president, praised the new policy in a statement to the Illuminator. 

“We have been asking for this option for a long time as its absence has made it difficult to recruit and retain talent since the schools with whom we are competing generally have these policies already in place,” Tirone said. “This change will help move us towards a more level playing field and make LSU a more welcoming environment for faculty and their families.” 

The University of Louisiana System has not yet crafted a policy, but outgoing system President Jim Henderson said his staff will immediately begin studying the feasibility of such a change. 

“If it is financially feasible, which it should be, then I think it’s something we should pursue,” Henderson said. 

Representatives from the Southern University System and Louisiana Community Technical Colleges System have not responded to requests for comment. 

The family leave policy for state employees came in two parts: a Civil Service rule, that applies to classified state employees, and an executive order that extends the policy to unclassified state employees, at-will workers who are typically in political or policy-related positions. Both go into effect Jan. 1. 

A spokesperson for Gov.-elect Jeff Landry declined to say whether he will keep Edwards’ executive order in place. He has the option of rescinding it when he takes office a week after the rule takes effect. 

The Civil Service rule is harder for a governor to undo, as the state Civil Service Commission would have to agree to rescind the policy. The commission agreed to the policy in September. 

Higher education institutions adopting paid family leave may make it more difficult for the governor to undo state employee policy. Most non-instructional staff at universities are in the same retirement system as most classified state employees, meaning an employee’s time at either a university or a state agency brings them closer to retirement. 

A university’s ability to offer paid family leave could make employment on campus a more attractive option, proponents said. 

Several candidates for Louisiana House speaker have said they will consider offering the perk to legislative employees, who aren’t covered under the executive order, for the same reason.

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