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U. recognized as top employer

Brown’s health and wellness policies rank high in work-life balance, vacation time

As a recognition of its leadership as an employer, the University was awarded the Seal of Distinction from WorldatWork’s Alliance for Work-Life Progress earlier this month. Brown is one of 13 colleges and universities to win the award, and one of 66 total organizations, said Kathie Lingle, executive director of AWLP.

Employers’ applications were judged in seven categories of “work-life effectiveness” based on support systems that “organizations give to their employees in order to make sure they get a life and that they have the support they need to get through the day both at work and at home,” Lingle said.

Of the seven categories, the University did best in “Health and Wellness,” “Caring for Dependents” and “Flexibility” and met the requirements for the other categories, Lingle said. Succeeding in all of the categories is a significant feat, she added, noting most organizations specialize in certain areas while providing no options in others.

Brown tied as the highest-scoring university in the “Health and Wellness” category, Lingle said, though she declined to identify the other school before AWLP names the winner at a gala in March.

The University currently offers all nine options listed under the “Health and Wellness” category, including on-site medical clinics, health care spending accounts and on-site immunization clinics.

“We’re not talking about whether or not (an organization) offers insurance programs as a standard benefit, but going above and beyond that — what does an organization do to communicate to employees that they really care about their state of physical and mental health?” Lingle said.

Brown received the highest possible score in “Flexibility.” The University lets its employees increase and decrease their workloads when facing life events, such as having children or preparing for retirement, Lingle said. Brown also provides paid and unpaid sabbaticals, phased retirement and a job corps that lets retirees work on short-term projects that “often give retirees a very important sense of still being valued by the organization,” Lingle said.

In the “Paid and Unpaid Time Off” category, Brown again tied as one of the highest scoring recipient. The category includes “all the policies and practices that help employees spend time with their families,” Lingle said. Brown provides paid leave for birth mothers, fathers, foster parents and adoptive parents, she said, adding that not all universities and few organizations provide such benefits.

Members of the Ad Hoc Committee on Employee Benefits, which convened last year to examine the University’s policies as an employer and write a report, expressed surprise over the University receiving the Seal of Distinction, given the state of its child care policies, tuition aid and retirement benefits.

Several child care policies considered in the “Caring for Dependents” category, such as an “on-site child care center” and “childcare subsidies,” have been contested as inefficient by Brown employees, said Professor Harold Roth P’17, professor of religious studies and chair of the committee.

“The president and provost did something about child care, but if you compare us to other universities, even with what they’ve done so far, you find that we’re not really competitive,” Roth said.

Another of the committee’s major complaints is the lack of retirement benefits, Roth said, adding that “peer institutions with similar endowments have better.”

Provost Mark Schlissel P’15 responded to the committee’s report by arguing the University could not afford to improve retirement benefits in the current financial climate, Roth said.

“In our history, I don’t think anyone ever really pushed for it among the faculty,” he added. “We had a young faculty when a lot of these things were set up, and it wasn’t on anyone’s radar.”

In its report, the committee compares the retirement benefits at Brown to those at Washington University in St. Louis, Cornell, Penn and other schools. The retirement health plan contributions and phase retirement at these institutions provide better coverage, Roth said.

“Brown lags way behind its peers in tuition aid and retirement benefits, especially health benefits,” wrote Mary Louise Gill, professor of philosophy and a member of the committee, in an email to The Herald.

Following the 2012 closure of the Taft Avenue Daycare Center, another committee — the Advisory Committee on Childcare — was formed and recommended making financial support for childcare available to graduate students with infants and toddlers, Gill wrote. “I hope that these efforts and this surprising recognition for Brown will impress upon our administration the ongoing need to address these issues, important to the Brown community,” she added.


Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that AWLP would release a list of Seal of Distinction recipients at its March gala. In fact, AWLP has already released the list of recipients but will announce the top scorer at the gala. The Herald regrets the error.


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