The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will offer a new plan to offer paid maternity and parental leave to its full-time, benefited employees in the U.S.
The new plan, released to employees Wednesday, says that women who give birth will be eligible for six weeks of paid leave, and parents (including those who give birth) will be eligible for one week of paid leave to bond with new children from birth or adoption.
The LDS Church also announced in a benefits handout that it will change its dress code: Women, who were required to wear dresses or skirts, may now wear pantsuits or dress slacks. Mormon men, who are known for their crisp white shirt and tie, are now able to wear light-colored dress shirts and may “remove suit jackets or sport coats for hot weather and movement throughout the building.”
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Also, starting at the end of this year, employees who have been ill, injured or disabled for seven days can receive two-thirds of their salary from day 8 to day 45. The new benefits will apply to LDS Church’s employees, including those in its Salt Lake City headquarters and church-owned colleges, including Brigham Young University.
The debate over paid family leave has been bubbling during the past few years and shows how policies at religious nonprofits are all over the map. At organizations like Focus on the Family and Catholic Charities, nonprofit employees who take up to 12 weeks unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act rely on leftover or accrued vacation time, sick days or a paid time off for income.
Like many religious nonprofits, the LDS Church, which has thousands of employees, did not offer parents paid leave before its recent policy change. The benefits, which do not affect its missionaries, retroactively apply to employees starting April 18 when they were approved by church leadership.
“I would hope that Latter-day Saints would be at the forefront in creating an environment in the workplace that is more receptive and accommodating to both men and women,” Elder Quentin L. Cook, one of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the church’s senior governing council, said in a statement.
Many Mormon women stay at home with their children, but attitudes about women and work have shifted in recent years, said Jana Riess, who blogs about Mormonism for Religion News Service.
“The very clear division of labor according to traditional gender roles is softening somewhat,” she said.