More than 5,300 Mercy employees in Arkansas eligible for paid parental leave

by Jeff Della Rosa (JDellaRosa@nwabj.com) 513 views 

Healthcare organization Mercy will allow 5,336 employees in Arkansas to take up to two weeks of paid parental leave as it responds to a 2017 employee survey on benefits and services it offers.

On Wednesday (June 13), St. Louis-based Mercy announced nearly 40,000 of its employees in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma can begin to receive parental leave July 1. In Arkansas, Mercy operates in Northwest Arkansas and the Fort Smith and Berryville areas, and any employee working at least 24 hours a week is eligible to receive the leave, said Jennifer Cook, senior media relations and communications specialist for Mercy.

Following are the number of Mercy employees eligible to receive the leave by Arkansas region: Fort Smith, 2,888; Northwest Arkansas, 2,307; and Berryville, 141.

Mothers and fathers of newborns or those who become parents of foster or adopted children can receive the paid parental leave, said Cook, adding that employees are eligible for up two weeks of the leave in a 12-month period and the leave must be taken over two consecutive weeks. All benefits, such as retirement program matching, and employment status will not be affected for the employees who are on the paid leave. The employees also would continue to collect paid leave.

Along with offering paid parental leave, Mercy is testing a program to provide child and elder care assistance. Recently, the organization began a program allowing employees and their families and friends to refinance student loans. One employee refinanced a $314,244 loan and is expected to save nearly $80,000 as a result. Like the paid parental leave, these were some of the top concerns Mercy acted on as a result of the employee survey.

“Paid parental leave was one of the top concerns,” said Cindy Rosburg, chief human resources officer for Mercy. “In the U.S., only about 10% of healthcare organizations offer paid parental leave. Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy, never married or had children herself, but she adopted children. She founded the order in Ireland almost 200 years ago to help address critical human needs, especially those of children and mothers. For Mercy, providing paid paternal leave is the right thing to do. Catherine would be proud.”

In 2017, nearly 1,000 Mercy employees gave birth, and Mercy has a higher ratio of employees at the prime age for having children, according to the organization. Nurses who are under 40 years old comprise of 54% of Mercy’s nursing workforce, while the industry average is 37%. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires large employers to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave, but the United States has no law requiring paid leave.

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