A new paid family leave policy in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, will help support families, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington said in a recent diocesan podcast.
Effective July 1, the Northern Virginia diocese is granting its employees eligible for family medical leave full pay for the first eight weeks of the individual's absence, which it called a family-friendly change. The previous policy protected an eligible individual's job for 12 weeks of family leave, as required by federal law, but the leave was unpaid unless the employee qualified for short-term disability or used vacation or sick days to cover time off. To qualify, an individual must have been employed for at least one year, working at least approximately 24 hours a week.
The Diocese of Arlington previously said that in 2022, its employees had 185 family leave absences, with about a third of those -- 32.4% -- related to the birth or adoption of a child, while about two-thirds -- or 67.6% -- related to their own or a family member's serious medical condition.
Bishop Burbidge, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said during a July episode of the diocese's Walk Humbly Podcast, that leadership requires reevaluating policies and listening to employee feedback.
"I'll talk to employees who share the joy about the birth of a child, but that joy is tempered with the added stress of having to rush back to work so they can pay bills," he said.
In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision in June 2022 that overturned Roe v. Wade, several Catholic organizations and dioceses have announced plans to implement expanded parental leave policies or provide other resources as a means of demonstrating their commitment to building a culture of life -- supporting family life while also advocating for pro-life laws and policies. In contrast, some secular corporations implemented benefits that would cover the cost of obtaining an abortion for pregnant employees, including out of state travel for the procedure.
Bishop Burbidge said he hopes the expanded policy is "a small way of expressing gratitude," for their employees' service to the church, and that they have some added peace of mind "knowing that they don't have to dip into their vacation or sick leave" to welcome a child or care for a sick family member.
In a July 11 news release, the diocese also announced employees working 20 hours or more a week are eligible to take up to 10 days of bereavement leave for the loss of a loved one, including a child lost in miscarriage.
It noted about two-thirds of the diocese’s 4,500 employees are eligible for the new policies.
"I know as a son who had that opportunity to walk with my parents when they were struggling, to be able to leave responsibilities knowing that others are going to help fill that, alleviated that stress," Bishop Burbidge said in the July 11 statement. "It's like a family within this diocese, within our places of work, because when someone's out for eight weeks the other members of the family, the team, pick it up."