For parents working at Duke, the amount of time off they have to bond with their new child depends on a number of factors.

Different positions at the University have different guaranteed paid parental leave times. For example, faculty paid parental leave is largely determined by whether the professor is regular-rank and whether they are the primary caregiver for their child. 

For Mine Çetinkaya-Rundel, associate professor of the practice of statistical science, the policy allowed her to have the entirety of last semester off from teaching for the birth of her son.

“I think it would be very difficult if I had to teach a class partway and then stop, or pick a class up partway,” she said. “I think that would, most importantly, be very difficult on the students. I’m glad I haven’t had to do that, and I think the policy of being off from teaching for a semester comes from that.”

The parental leave policy for faculty can be found in chapter four of the faculty handbook, which explains that “a regular rank faculty member on a multiple-year appointment” will be given a semester’s leave with pay for the birth of their child, adoption of a child or the birth of a domestic partner’s child. 

The paid leave only accrues to the "primary caregiver," or the parent who has "primary responsibility for the care of the child." For example, if only one member of the couple is on faculty, then that faculty member must be the "primary caregiver" in order to receive the leave.

Çetinkaya-Rundel and her husband, statistics professor Colin Rundel, faced a slightly different situation. Only Çetinkaya-Rundel could get the parental leave because she was the primary caregiver, she said. 

Nonetheless, the flexibility inherent in academic scheduling allowed him to plan his classes for the same day and work from home on other days. He was back in the classroom a week after the baby was born.

“It’s a lot more generous than what others in this country are working with, but is it ideal? I don’t know,” she said. “A lot of research seems to show that early bonding is very important, and some countries seem to be very respectful of both fathers and mothers taking the time off.”

Regular-rank faculty on the tenure-track who take parental leave also get a one-year extension of the tenure probationary period—the time in which they have to demonstrate they are qualified for tenure. 

The amount of paid time off for non-regular rank faculty is different. For Duke’s non-regular rank faculty, six weeks of paid leave are guaranteed. However, the Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid leave, so non-regular rank faculty can also use six weeks of unpaid leave. This means professors such as adjuncts and lecturing fellows can take up to 12 weeks total when welcoming new children, but only half is paid.

The University only provides three weeks of full-paid parental leave policy for staff members at Duke and at the Duke University Health System. In order to spend more time away from work, they must "use vacation, sick leave, discretionary/designated holidays or [paid time off.]" After that has elapsed, they can take the remainder of their 12 weeks of unpaid leave time through the FMLA. 

Because staff can accrue sick and vacation leave while faculty cannot, the guaranteed paid parental leave of staff is lower than that of faculty, wrote Kyle Cavanaugh, vice president of administration, in an email. 

“It is important to understand that the paid parental leave is in addition to Duke vacation and sick leave benefit,” he wrote. 

If the University’s policy sounds confusing, it may be because of the disjointed location of the information.

“I think one of the things that is always challenging when it comes to things like this is how do you find the information? As a student, you may not be sure where to look, but even as a faculty member it is not immediately clear where to look to find this information,” said Çetinkaya-Rundel. “You ask around, your chair usually helps you. So you get to it eventually, but oftentimes this type of information is in some booklet, you just need to know where to look.”

However, the University policy may soon be influenced by the White House. President Donald Trump promised during his campaign to provide a minimum of six weeks paid maternity leave, although recent reports suggest that could be family, not only maternal, leave. 

“We have been monitoring [it] closely and will make any required adjustments,” Cavanaugh wrote.