By Alex Machlica, RN
United Hospital steward
For the past couple years, United Hospital’s management has been inconsistent in the use of sick leave for nurses’ paternity or maternity leaves. In some cases, management has allowed nurses to use sick leave for part of or all of their leaves; and in other cases, management has required nurses to use vacation leave in order to get paid from the first day.
Management has also denied new fathers any use of sick leave on the grounds that the contract only allows the use of sick leave for one’s own illness.
The union filed a grievance several months ago, challenging the practice on the grounds that it violates state law, which requires the employer to allow a person to utilize sick leave for the care of a spouse, parent, or child on the same terms that they can utilize it for themselves.
We settled the grievance on a “non-precedent setting” basis.
Even after the settlement, United continued to deny sick leave to new fathers. HR representatives gave conflicting information about how fathers could handle upcoming paternity leave when staff contacted them. Some said they could use vacation; some said fathers needed to apply for paternity leave at different time frames; others said fathers could use earned sick time. One future father who kept receiving different advice went to MNA for assistance, who advised him to file a Step 1 grievance by sending a letter to the HR specialist. As a result, United finally provided some clarity in a response to the filing, agreeing that fathers and mothers can use sick leave after the birth of a child in the same way.
The hospital agreed that “an employee may use sick time for absences due to an illness or injury of the covered family member on the same terms the employee could use sick time for the employee’s own illness or injury. Therefore, the employee can use sick time to care for the employee’s spouse or child with an illness or injury. For child birth (sic), we allow mothers to use sick time for up to six weeks after a regular delivery and eight weeks for a C-section. A father can use sick time to stay home…for the same period. A father can also use sick time to help the baby with any serious health needs.”
Thanks to persistence of our nurses, we now have clarification that this important benefit can be used by mothers and fathers alike.