Maternity and paternity leaves

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For most jobs, there is a period of time provided to the parents of a newborn baby called a paternity or maternity leave. For the past few years in New York City, the DOE has normally given teachers six weeks away from their job, extending to eight weeks should there be a medical condition delaying the return. This approach to maternity and paternity leaves has created huge amounts of controversy, however, since many people feel that the time they are given is not enough. The United Federation of Teachers (UFT), is now trying to get in touch with Mayor De Blasio to come together on fairer terms and “grant UFT members the paid parental leave they deserve.”

Teachers in NYC have received very little pay on maternity leave in the past. Sara Liu, a mathematics teacher at Townsend Harris, took a maternity leave earlier this school year and was faced with the financial struggle many on leave have. “[The] DOE does not provide paid maternity leave, but because I saved many sick days from previous years that I worked, I was able to use those days as my maternity leave so that I would still have the financial income,” said Ms. Liu. For some, the only way to still receive income is to use sick days that they have saved up however a very real issue arises when workers don’t have any to use.

Ms. Liu added, “I absolutely believe that we should be paid for maternity leave without using our saved days. I think teachers have the worst benefits when it comes to maternity leave.”

Male teachers receive no form of paternity leave from the NYC Department of Education. Classical language teacher George Hagerty recently took a leave for the birth of his son. He said, “The first basic fact about paternity leave is, in the NYC DOE, there is no such thing as paternity leave.” He went on to explain that having paternity leave would give the father time to bond with his child but realized that women have to go through “painful labor” and that they need to “recover from their child’s birth,” while men are able to get back to work immediately.

The UFT has been fighting for better conditions when it comes to maternity and paternity leave. There have been many cases of injured teachers going back to their job early because they couldn’t financially support themselves if they didn’t. The UFT cites the example of Luisa Ayala who, in 2016, had to be taken to the hospital for deep vein thrombosis in her left leg and a pulmonary embolism in her lungs, which are health issues that women who were recently in labor are more susceptible to. This matter and the circumstances afterward have caused the UFT to fight for better rights.

The UFT has stated, “Thousands of UFT members have already signed up to be part of the campaign urging the city to provide paid parental leave.” In addition to this, “The UFT is pushing at the bargaining table for a parental leave policy that covers adoptions, foster care and fathers as well.”

Sophomore Angie Chan summed up the general thoughts of most students when she said, “I think the people who make these rules should be less ignorant and be open-minded to the numerous conditions that people face. The fact that there is no leeway for paternity and maternity leave to take care of their own children is unreasonable. You don’t as a parent to choose between their family and their job.”