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Magazine labels Duke a ‘family-friendly’ employer

Carolina Parent magazine has ranked Duke University and Health System in its list of the top 50 family-friendly employers in North Carolina.

This is the Triangle area publication’s 11th edition of such rankings and Duke’s 5th straight year appearing on the list. The ranking was based on various criteria including vacation time offered to employees, maternity leave and discounted programs for child wellness and education. This year, 50 companies were deemed family-friendly, up from 40 last year.

Companies are putting more emphasis on the health and welfare of their employees and creating new and innovative options for their benefits, said Holly Rice, director of the evening MBA program at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. Rice helped to select the final list of 50.

“We all know that happier and healthier employees are more productive,” Rice said, noting that employers like Duke are putting greater resources into family-friendly benefits to increase retention.

“Employee retention is a huge component,” she said.  

A university as competitive and selective as Duke does not want to lose its faculty and staff to other institutions providing better benefits. Rice added that greater benefits “attract more talented employees and encourage them to develop academically and to contribute their ideas.” Because their families are covered, they have less to worry about and can dedicate more positive energy to their work.

Alfiee Breland-Noble, assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, said one of the greatest benefits of working for Duke is the support she has received, noting that the Duke Children’s Camp day care was one of the things that appealed to her.

“My primary benefit has been that for the past three and a half years, I have been able to take my children to daycare and go to work with a great deal of peace of mind that my children are well cared for,” Breland-Noble said.

Faculty and staff can take advantage of time-off benefits, discounted wellness programs and extended leave for childbirth or adoption. There is a “phase-back” option for new moms and health insurance provided for newborns, Carolina Parent reported in its findings. Employees can even “bank” their hours so that colleagues may use them in times of family emergency—one of many innovative ways Duke has allowed its employees to balance their time between the workplace and the home.  

Fred Maurer is an informations technology employee at the Fuqua School of Business who has recently taken advantage of Duke’s six-week parental leave option after the birth of his now 2-month-old daughter.  

“I almost feel guilty at times because we get such good treatment here,” Maurer said, noting that he had a friend who returned to work days after his child was born. “What made it really good was that I have a two-year-old in the house and was able to spend more time with my wife and both children.”

The University is working to trim its budget by $50 million this year, largely by cutting human resources expenses. But if anything, the harsh economic climate has shown that the health and well being of workers everywhere is an important factor in cutting costs and maximizing production, Rice said.

It has also forced companies that developed wasteful practices during times of economic prosperity to “think economically,” Rice said, adding that the economic challenge presented by the recession has made innovation a necessity for survival.

“Even in difficult economic times, Duke continues to be labeled as an employer of choice,” Vice President of Human Resources Kyle Cavanaugh said, noting that its wages and benefits packages have remained competitive.   

To date, Duke has been able to avoid the more challenging types of approaches that its peer institutions have had to face,” he added, noting that Duke has not experienced a large-scale reduction in force.

“Duke continues to provide its employees with positive, proactive programs that balance demands between work and outside life,” Cavanaugh said.

He added that employees may still take advantage of an important tuition assistance program, work-site health programs through Live for Life and employee-assistance programs through Personal Assistance Services.

“We want to be as competitively practical as can be and at the same time want to be as supportive of our employee population as we can,” Cavanaugh said.

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