By SUZANNE LYNCH
In 2017 as part of a successful effort led by Staff Council, the University of Pittsburgh announced the first paid parental leave program for staff, providing new parents four consecutive weeks (20 days) of paid leave for birth, adoption or foster care. This benefit has proven to be very successful among staff five years after it was introduced, with 624 parents taking 12,335 days as of April 2022 (reported by the Office of Human Resources).
In addition, the University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Human Resources website provides new parents and parents-to-be information on family preparation, medical insurance plans, returning to work, childcare, wellness counseling, and a University map of lactation rooms/areas for nursing mothers across the Pittsburgh campus.
When welcoming my first child in April 2022, I found the resources provided by HR helpful but lacking, especially while overwhelmed with the responsibility of being a new parent. Upon returning to work after taking my parental leave and learning how to efficiently and safely express milk while at work, I was surprised to learn that Pitt does not have a formal policy related to lactation. While I was approved to take adequate break time during my day, I wondered why Pitt didn’t have a University policy in place that outlines the appropriate guidelines, spaces and breaktime to express milk while at work and how many other new parents had the same experience as I did.
As a member of Staff Council for over six years, I brought my concerns to our organization. As a result, I began working with Staff Council’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusion committee to author a resolution supporting a parental/lactation policy at the University of Pittsburgh. Our team researched the multiple health benefits of breastfeeding, the current laws that protect nursing employees, and benchmarked the resources offered by other universities to write a resolution that was passed by Staff Council general membership and signed by Staff Council President Lindsay Rodzwicz in October 2022.
The resolution asks Pitt to promote the inclusion of and actively support lactating employees by creating a formal University policy and pursues the formation of a partnership with Staff Council and other existing health and wellness stakeholders on campus to create an ad-hoc committee to increase the available resources for new parents and parents-to-be at the University of Pittsburgh.
This includes an assessment of existing lactation spaces on campus and an updated lactation campus map, as well as increased resources and support options. The resolution also suggests that our efforts moving forward will include a notion to self-nominate the University of Pittsburgh to be recognized as a Breastfeeding Friendly Employer by the Pennsylvania Breastfeeding Coalition by 2024.
Staff Council looks forward to working with administration, existing University groups, staff, faculty and students to improve and secure additional resources for lactating employees, new parents, and parents-to-be. We are enthusiastic about the support it has already received from the University Senate Equity, Inclusion, Anti-Discrimination Advocacy Committee (EIADAC) and hope that this resolution will be the start of many changes that will be beneficial for a large percentage of our Pitt community. We would expect this to offer a bridge to retaining a community of employees who have historically been challenged to stay in the workforce.
To learn more about what Staff Council is working on or if you are interested in working with Staff Council to help move this effort and others forward, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or join one of our monthly general meetings, which can be found on the University Events Calendar.
The University of Pittsburgh Staff Council is the shared governance organization representing staff at Pitt for more than 50 years. The mission of Staff Council is to represent the interests of and advocate for all staff at Pitt as well as providing opportunities for comprehensive professional development.
Follow us @upstaffcouncil on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook or sign up for our newsletter via https://www.staffcouncil.pitt.edu/news/newsletter.
Suzanne Lynch has been a member of Staff Council for six years and a staff member at Pitt for nine years. She currently serves as the budget & finance manager for the Office of the Provost.