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FAQs about Childbirth and Primary Caregiver Workload Reduction Policies for Professorial Faculty, Lecturers and Instructors

Paid Absence for Children

Who is covered by the Paid Absence for Childbirth leave?

Women who give birth, and who are Assistant, Associate and Full Professors, Research, Clinical, and “of the Practice” Professors, Lecturers or Instructors, and who are full-time, compensated employees are all eligible for six weeks of Paid Absence for Childbirth. Additional conditions apply for eligibility for the Primary Caregiver Paid Workload Reduction, see below.

What happened to the old Maternity Leave policy?

After 26 years, it was replaced by a new generation. The new Paid Absence for Childbirth will replace Maternity Leave as of July 1, 2011 for women who give birth.  We have also added a new policy that benefits faculty of either gender who become parents by birth, adoption, foster care, guardianship placement or newly established legal custodial care and who are the primary caregiver of their child: Workload Reduction.

If I am currently approved for a maternity leave after July 1, 2011, which policy am I under?

If you have already been approved for a maternity leave, you are covered under the existing Maternity Leave policy, even if you will be taking that leave after July 1.

Is medical documentation required when I apply for Childbirth Leave?

Medical certification (i.e. a doctor’s letter) is NOT required for the six-week Paid Absence for Childbirth leave.  However, if you are unable to work during your pregnancy, or cannot work after the six-week postpartum period, you may be required to provide medical certification to qualify for uninterrupted  salary under the Temporary Disability Policy for Faculty.  This policy provides salary continuation for 3-6 months (depending on prior service) if you cannot work for medical reasons.

What happens if my child is born during the summer when I have no duties? Can I take my Paid Absence for Childbirth leave in the Fall?

No. The six-week Paid Absence for Childbirth begins immediately following the birth of your child.  It cannot be deferred to future date.

I am having twins. Am I eligible for two Childbirth leaves, or two Workload Reductions?

No. Boston University treats the birth of multiple babies (twins or more), or the addition of multiple children to the family at one time by adoption or other means, as a single event that makes the individual eligible for a single Paid Absence for Childbirth and/or Workload Reduction option. However, you should know that additional unpaid leave for multiple births or adoptions is available to employees through the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (MMLA).

I am adopting a child, am I eligible for Childbirth Leave?

No. Childbirth Leave is restricted to women who give birth.  However, you may request a period of Workload Reduction if you will be the primary caregiver of your new child. Also note that all employees who are eligible for FMLA leave may request unpaid leave for the adoption of a child, or for the assumption of new foster care.  An additional law in Massachusetts, the MMLA, provides additional unpaid leave if a woman adopts more than one child.

I am a man in one of the ranks listed above, can I take a paid leave when my child is born?

No, Paid Absence for Childbirth leave is only available to women who give birth.  However, all employees are eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for pregnancy, birth or adoption of a child, or for the assumption of new foster care, in accordance with the provisions of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and, where applicable, the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (MMLA).  Note that both men and women may request Boston University’s Workload Reduction if they are the primary caregiver of a child.

My Paid Absence for Childbirth leave will end partway through the semester. What are my options for the remainder of the semester?

  1. You can continue to have no duties by taking unpaid FMLA or MMLA leave if you are eligible.
  2. You can return to work at full duty and full pay. If you expect to take this option you should work with your department chair ahead of time to make plans for work that you could do for part of a semester.  In some cases, a course could be co-taught, or you might be asked to perform extra service duties in lieu of normal teaching.
  3. You can elect to use Workload Reduction at Full-Modified Status or Half-Modified Status to have full pay and a reduced workload for the remainder of the semester, if you will be the primary caregiver.  Note, however, that this option “uses up” your Full-Modified Status eligibility, or uses up one semester of your two-semester Half-Modified Status eligibility.

I’ve heard of FMLA, but what’s MMLA?

Massachusetts requires employers like BU to provide unpaid leave to female employees for 8 weeks for the birth or adoption of a child.  In most situations, FMLA (the Federal Family Medical Leave Act) provides a longer leave (12 weeks) than MMLA (8 weeks), so FMLA is advantageous.  However MMLA is valuable for women who give birth to multiples or adopt multiple children at one time, because it provides 8 weeks of unpaid leave for each child. Please see: http://www.mass.gov/mcad/maternity1.html for more information on MMLA, and http://www.bu.edu/hr/policies/federal-and-state-laws/family-and-medical-leave-act-fmla/ for more information about FMLA at BU.

Is MMLA leave available to men who become parents?

No.  The MMLA only applies to women.

Part of my salary comes from working on externally funded grants and contracts. Can I take a Paid Absence for Childbirth, even though I won’t be working on the sponsored project for 6 weeks?  If I do take this leave, who pays my salary during those 6 weeks?

Yes, you can take a Paid Absence for Childbirth even if part or all of your normal salary comes from an externally sponsored project. During a six-week Paid Absence for Childbirth, salary contributions from sponsored awards (such as NIH and NSF grants) may continue without interruption, subject to the policies of the sponsor. For absences longer than six weeks, salary contributions from sponsored awards may only be continued with approval of the relevant Dean’s office. Requests for this approval must include a plan to fulfill awarded effort commitments.  Please contact the Office of Sponsored Programs if you have any questions about Childbirth Leave while being paid from an external sponsor, or you need help with an absence from a sponsored project that is more than 6 weeks.

Tenure Clock

How does Paid Absence for Childbirth or Workload Reduction affect the tenure clock?

All faculty members on the tenure-track who take a Paid Absence for Childbirth and/or Workload Reduction because they become the primary caregiver of a new child will be granted an automatic one-year deferral of the tenure review deadline.

If I prefer to come up for tenure review in my originally scheduled year, do I have to accept the deadline deferral?

No. You may, in consultation with your department Chair and Dean, opt to be considered for tenure during your original tenure review year.  Your dean should write a memo to the Provost, requesting that your tenure review take place in your original tenure review year.

How many times can I defer my tenure review as a result of taking a Paid Absence for Childbirth or Workload Reduction?

All faculty are limited to two 1-year postponements of the tenure review deadline for any reason (medical leaves, Paid Absence for Childbirth, Workload Reduction, etc.).

If I take a Paid Absence for Childbirth, and then a Workload Reduction because I am the primary caregiver of the same child, does my tenure clock get extended twice (i.e by 2 years)?

No, just once for that child, whether or not you used both Paid Absence for Childbirth and Workload Reduction as the primary caregiver of that child.  If you add another child to your family later, and take Childbirth Leave and/or Workload Reduction as the primary caregiver of that child, you automatically receive a second tenure review deadline deferral, but the limit is two deferrals for any reason.

I decided not to take a Workload Reduction, even though I was the primary caregiver of a new child. Am I still eligible for a deferral of my tenure review deadline?

Yes, provided that you make the request within one year of assuming primary caregiver responsibilities and make the request for deferral prior to the beginning of the tenure review year.  Once your school or college has begun soliciting external letters for your promotion and tenure dossier, a change in the tenure review year is not possible.

Primary Caregiver Paid Workload Reduction Questions

Who is eligible for Workload Reduction?

Workload Reduction is available to the following full-time, compensated employees:

  • Those with unmodified professorial titles;
  • Those with professorial titles modified by Research, Clinical, and of the Practice;
  • Lecturers;
  • Instructors

provided that the individual meets all of the following conditions:

  • He or she will be the primary care giver for the child during the requested period of workload reduction;
  • At the time the workload reduction request is made, the individual either: a) has a multi-year appointment and has had a minimum of one year of full-time service to the University; or b) has a one year appointment and has had a minimum of two years of full-time service to the University;
  • He or she has an appointment that extends at least through the end date of the requested workload reduction period;
  • He or she intends to return to full workload, provided he or she is reappointed or his or her appointment continues.

What is the definition of “primary caregiver?”

You are the primary caregiver if you are either responsible for more than 50% of the care of your child, or are the sole caretaker of your child for more than 20 hours per week, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 9am-5pm.

How will the University know whether someone really is the primary caregiver?

We are developing a form to document Workload Reduction. The form will ask you to attest that you meet the definition of primary caregiver described above. We trust that faculty will use Workload Reduction appropriately. Please contact us in the Provost’s office if you have questions.

What are the two kinds of Workload Reduction?

  1. Full-Modified Status:  This option provides paid relief for up to one semester from all teaching duties, committee assignments, and other service.  You will still be expected to advise graduate students and sustain your research program or creative activities.  This option cannot extend across two semesters.  Please note:  Some eligible individuals on the Medical Campus have teaching duties that do not fit within the usual semester structure.  For persons in that situation who choose the Full-Modified option, relief from teaching and committee assignments will be provided for 14 consecutive weeks.
  2. Half-Modified Status:  This option provides paid relief for up to two semesters from half of your teaching responsibilities, committee assignments, and other service.  You will still be expected to advise graduate students and sustain your research program or creative activities.  The normal workload for equivalent individuals in your unit will be used as the basis from which the reduction to one half is calculated.  In cases in which the teaching or service responsibilities are not readily divisible by half, these responsibilities may be considered together for the purposes of reduction.  Please note:  Some eligible individuals on the Medical Campus have teaching duties that do not fit within the usual semester structure.  For persons in that situation who choose the Full-Modified option, relief from teaching and committee assignments will be provided for 28 consecutive weeks.

Part of my salary comes from working on externally funded grants and contracts. Can I reduce my workload on those projects by taking Workload Reduction?

No. Unfortunately, the University cannot release you from obligations to external sponsors, except for the 6-week period of Paid Absence for Childbirth. Workload Reduction includes relief from responsibilities to the University, but does not include release from responsibilities to external funding sources unless alternative arrangements are approved by such sources.

How many times, and how frequently can I take advantage of Workload Reduction?

Eligible faculty may request one of the two Workload Reduction options per academic year.  You may request a maximum of three periods of Workload Reduction over the course of your employment at Boston University. Note that the one- or the two-semester option counts as a single period of Workload Reduction out of the total of three that you are allowed.

When can I take Workload Reduction? Does it have to start as soon as my child joins the family?

The period of Primary Caregiver Paid Workload Reduction must be completed with 16 months of the date the child is born or joins the family by other means, or you become the sole legal guardian. You can choose the time that best suits your needs as the primary caregiver, but note that workload reduction occurs within semesters.  In other words, you cannot begin a one-semester Full-modified Status Workload Reduction in the middle of the Fall, and finish it in the middle of the Spring semester. You can choose the two-semester option and use Workload Reduction in the Spring of one academic year and the Fall semester of the next academic year, provided the Workload Reduction is completed within 16 months of the date the child is born, adopted, etc.

I added a child to my family in Spring 2011, before this new Workload Reduction Policy was approved.  Is there any way I can take advantage of it?

Yes, the full policy goes into effect July 1, 2011. Provided that you will be the primary caregiver, you may apply for Workload Reduction now for a future semester, as long as the semester(s) of Paid Workload Reduction you request will be completed within 16 months of the addition the child to your family.

When should I apply for Workload Reduction?

To allow adequate planning for the academic program of your unit, under normal circumstances requests for Paid Workload Reduction should be made well before the beginning of the semester in which the Paid Workload Reduction would commence.

How should I apply for Workload Reduction?

These requests should start with a discussion with your Chair about your needs and the various options.  Please feel free to suggest that your Chair or Dean contact us in the Provost’s Office if he or she has any questions. We are working on a form that will help schools and colleges track these requests, but it is not ready yet. We expect that Chairs will begin accommodating Workload Reduction requests as early as the Fall semester of 2011.

My spouse/partner and I are both eligible for the Workload Reduction offered by BU.  How does this work?

If both parents are eligible BU professorial faculty members, lecturers or instructors, they may both request the relief to which they are entitled.  The periods of Paid Workload Reduction may not be simultaneous, however, since each reduction presupposes that the person receiving workload reduction is the primary caregiver, and all Workload Reduction must be completed within 16 months of the addition of the child to the family. Note that FMLA allows two spouses who are both employed by the same employer a combined total of 12 weeks of unpaid leave, not two 12-week unpaid leaves for the birth, adoption, or foster care of a child.

How does Workload Reduction interact with other leaves?

FMLA: Where applicable, unpaid leave provided by FMLA shall run concurrently with Paid Workload Reduction at full- or half-modified status as either intermittent or reduced schedule leave.  A determination of FMLA applicability will be made at the time Paid Workload Reduction is requested.

Paid Absence for Childbirth: Taking Paid Absence for Childbirth does not have an effect on subsequent eligibility for Workload Reduction.  You can take the Paid Absence for Childbirth, and follow it with Workload Reduction to care for your child, as long as you complete any period of Workload Reduction within 16 months of the child’s birth. As described above, a woman may wish to use Workload Reduction to have uninterrupted pay and a reduced teaching and service workload if her Paid Absence for Childbirth ends before the semester if over and she is the primary caregiver.  Note however, that a semester that includes Workload Reduction immediately following Paid Absence for Childbirth will be counted towards that individual’s limit on eligibility for Paid Workload Reduction.

I am paid through a Faculty Practice Plan on the Medical Campus.  How does that affect my eligibility for Paid Absence for Childbirth, or Workload Reduction?

Boston University professorial faculty, lecturers, and instructors who have contracts with practice plans are not eligible for this paid absence or workload reduction, but instead receive benefits in accordance with the policies adopted by their practice plans and approved by the Faculty Practice Foundation, Inc.

Am I limited to one qualifying event per child under this policy?

No.  You may take Paid Absence for Childbirth following the birth of your child and then apply for Workload Reduction to care for the same child as the primary caregiver.  If you later become bereaved, for example, and become the sole legal guardian and primary caregiver of your child, you become eligible for a new period of Workload Reduction, because there is a new event that is likely to have a substantial effect on your ability to fulfill all of your obligations to the University in teaching and service.  Note that you are still limited to a total of 3 periods of Workload Reduction during your employment at Boson University.

If I find myself suddenly without childcare, can I become the primary caregiver and have a reduced workload through Workload Reduction?

No, this policy is intended to ease the transition in becoming a parent and primary caregiver, not to support ongoing childcare situations.

I just became the primary caregiver and sole legal guardian of a child through divorce or bereavement.  Am I eligible for Workload Reduction? Does it matter that my child is no longer a baby?

If you meet the eligibility requirements regarding rank and length of service/contract, these situations are covered. Note that the Workload Reduction must be completed within 16 months of the start of your new role as sole legal guardian.  The 16-month limit is tied to the event, not to the age of the child.

My child has developed serious medical issues and I need time off or a reduced workload to take care of him/her.  Can I use Workload Reduction for this purpose?

No, it is not intended for this purpose.  However, please speak with your Dean and/or the Provost if you need an alternative work arrangement or a compassionate leave. We may be able to help.  Care of a family member with serious medical issues is also a situation covered under FMLA, which provides unpaid leave.