Gina Briggs 0

Making VT An Adoption-Friendly Workplace

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Making Varsity Tutors an Adoption-Friendly Workplace

This proposal attempts to erase the differential treatment of adoptive parents and biological parents in Varsity Tutors’ employee benefits policy. Additionally, this proposal includes suggestions for Varsity Tutors’ current bereavement policy in order to prioritize the mental health of its employees.

Introduction

I, Gina Rebecca Briggs, am requesting that Varsity Tutors establish an adoption benefits policy and amend the bereavement leave to include losses by miscarriage starting August 1, 2022. As a hopeful adoptive parent, infertility warrior, and mother to one child lost to miscarriage, I saw a gap in support in Varsity Tutors’ company policies. However, this proposal goes beyond my lived experiences and needs; this proposal will benefit many current and future valuable Varsity Tutors employees including, but not limited to, those that struggle with infertility, those that seek to grow their families through adoption, and those in the LGBTQ+ community.

At Varsity Tutors, we recognize that all scholars learn in different ways and we strive to eliminate barriers that prevent students from achievement. Likewise, not all individuals grow their families in the same way, but everyone should be valued and treated fairly. Varsity Tutors has an opportunity to help eliminate barriers that prevent its employees from growing their families while maintaining fruitful careers.

Recognizing equity among all employees forming families, many employers establish adoption benefits and include miscarriage and other infertility-related complications into their bereavement policies. These benefits include financial reimbursement and/or paid leave. Some organizations also include unpaid leave beyond the requirements of the Family Medical Leave Act.

More equitable family-friendly policies at Varsity Tutors will:

  • Strengthen employee loyalty, retention, goodwill and productivity.
  • Give Varsity Tutors a competitive edge in recruiting new employees.
  • Enhance the organization’s family-friendly image.
  • Recognize the need to support adoptive and biological parents.
  • Give employees time to bond with their children.
  • Make adoption more affordable.
  • Clearly communicate that mental health and work/life balance is a priority.
  • Help move children from foster care to loving, adoptive homes.

Moreover, it’s the right thing to do.

I suggest that we use the outline below as a guide and consider the following:

Adoption Leave of Absence

Recognizing that adoption is a time-intensive process even after the child is legally placed in the adoptive parents’ care, Varsity Tutors could offer a reasonable paid leave without requiring the employee to exhaust their PTO. The following has been taken from the current edition of the Varsity Tutors Employee Handbook found on The VERSE:

“Full-time employees who have been employed by the Company for at least 1250 hours and whose spouse or partner gives birth to a child, who adopt a child, or who have a child via surrogate are eligible for one week of paid parental leave.”

One week of paid parental leave is insufficient for adoptive parents to successfully acclimate a child (of any age) into their home. In the case of domestic infant adoption (the route that I myself am pursuing), the adoptive parents may not have even returned home with their child within one week’s time if they have adopted outside of their home state (see information on ICPC below). Parenting an adoptive child can oftentimes come with complications that necessitate a parent’s undivided time and attention, especially in the early stages of acclimation. These complications can be, but are not limited to:

  • The necessity of being legally bound to remain in the adopted child’s state of birth until ICPC paperwork is finalized (if the child is placed at birth).
  • Parenting a child with special needs as a result of poor prenatal care and/or prenatal substance abuse.
  • Additional bonding/attachment considerations and trauma-informed care.

I propose that Varsity Tutors permit employees who adopt (whether male, female, or non-binary) to take advantage of up to eight weeks of paid leave. Considering that most accredited daycare facilities will not accept infants younger than six weeks old, this is a modest accommodation that will alleviate emotional and financial stress to adoptive parents as they transition back into the workplace. This time may be utilized pre- or post-adoption, and will be applied to leave allowed under the Family Medical Leave Act.

Paid leave policy for adoptive parents should match that of biological parents (currently, Varsity Tutors gives eight weeks of paid leave to biological mothers). To promote an equitable workplace culture that values all types of families, there should be no distinction. Parental leave does not exist solely for the purpose of physically recovering from childbirth, but to bond with and acclimate new family members into a home.

Amended Bereavement Policy

The current verbiage used in Varsity Tutors’ handbook is not inclusive of those that may need bereavement leave for the loss of a child due to miscarriage. The following segments have been taken from the current edition of the Varsity Tutors Employee Handbook found on The VERSE:

“In the event of the death of an immediate family member, full-time employees will be paid at employee’s base compensation level for up to three regularly scheduled days in order to attend the funeral. For purposes of this policy, an immediate family member is defined as spouse/partner, children, stepchildren, parents, stepparents, parents-in-law, siblings, stepbrothers and stepsisters, and grandparents. The Company may consider other individuals “immediate family members” in certain circumstances.”

“Employees requesting bereavement leave may be asked to provide the Human Resources Department with evidence of death and attendance at the funeral (i.e., obituary notice or statement from the funeral director indicating the relationship to the deceased).”

I lost my first child at the commencement of my employment with Varsity Tutors in 2021. As evident from above, the bereavement policy suggests that proof of death and funeral arrangements may be necessary for bereavement leave. Some individuals, like myself at that time, do not feel comfortable discussing their losses and advocating for their right to mourn if their situation is not clearly outlined in the company handbook.

About 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage (Cleveland Clinic, 2019). Most of the individuals that grieve this loss grieve in silence. Thus, miscarriage is a uniquely isolating experience, both for the individual physically enduring the loss, and their partners as well. There could be a number of employees at Varsity Tutors that have come into work and struggled through, while not performing at capability, because they felt as if the bereavement policy did not apply to their situation.

I propose that Varsity Tutors amend their bereavement policy to specifically include those affected by miscarriage. This would include a three-day paid leave for men, women, and non-binary individuals grieving the loss of a child. Eligibility should not be determined by funeral arrangements or medical paperwork; many individuals do not hold formal ceremonies or receive medical procedures at the time of their losses. In fact, many medical professionals advise patients to “wait for nature to take its course,” consequently, experiencing the loss at home without a paper trail.

Financial Reimbursement

There are many different pathways to adopting a child; however, none of these options are without a considerable financial responsibility. According to the Family Equity Council (2019), domestic adoptions can range between $20,000-$40,000. For an international adoption, costs could amount up to $70,000 (Family Equity Council, 2019).

As such, I propose that Varsity Tutors offer a modest Adoption Assistance Benefit for adoption-related expenses. My suggestion is to reimburse eligible Varsity Tutors employees up to a maximum of $5,000 per child or per adoption. Expenses directly related to the adoption are reimbursable, including but not limited to:

  • Application fees
  • Home studies
  • Agency and placement fees
  • Legal fees and court costs
  • Immigration, immunization, and translation fees
  • Transportation, meals and lodging

Because the adoption process can take a substantial period of time to complete and is sometimes unsuccessful, Varsity Tutors should consider reimbursing employees as costs are incurred, and regardless of the outcome.

*Please note for budgeting purposes that according to the Society for Human Resource Management, less than 1% of eligible employees generally use adoption benefits in any given year.

Conclusion

The VERSE Benefits homepage states that Varsity Tutors cares about their employees’ health and financial security. With the proposed adjustments to the company’s parental leave and bereavement policies, Varsity Tutors can confidently add, “We care about your families” and “We care about your mental health” as well.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) annual survey of U.S. employers, 11% of employers provided adoption assistance in 2018, up from 6% in 2014 (SHRM, 2018). For Varsity Tutors to keep pace with its competitors, we must maintain a competitive benefits package that is on par with industry standards.

Thank you for your consideration. If you would like to discuss these matters in further detail, I would be happy to meet with representatives from the People Team over Google Meet or Zoom at your convenience.

Respectfully,

Gina Rebecca Briggs, M.A.

Recruitment Coordinator, Varsity Tutors

gina.briggs@varsitytutors.com

850-591-2763

Resources

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption offers an Adoption-Friendly Workplace employer toolkit with free resources for employers, including frequently asked questions, applicable tax laws, a sample reimbursement form, and a sample news release.

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