Policies and Procedures: Work Life Memo

Memo from the Dean of the Faculty on Work Life Initiatives

August 2011

To:    New Faculty
From:    Kevin McLaughlin, Dean of the Faculty
Re:    Work-Life Initiatives at Brown University

One of the challenges for faculty members at Brown and elsewhere is that of combining a demanding academic career with a rewarding personal life.  There is a growing awareness throughout higher education of the importance of addressing work-life issues, and a recognition that improving policies and practices in this area is an essential part of recruiting and retaining an excellent faculty. It therefore gives me great pleasure to call your attention to a number of programs at Brown: 

Parental Teaching Relief and Extensions of the Probationary Period for Primary Caregivers.  Since 2003, Brown has had a policy whereby untenured, tenure-track faculty members who become the parent of a child by birth or adoption and serve as primary caregiver for that child are entitled to a semester of teaching relief.  And, in recognition of the impact that such responsibilities may have on research productivity, the contract as assistant professor is extended by one year, thus deferring the reappointment or tenure review. This extension is automatic unless the faculty member requests otherwise.  Those who assume primary caregiving responsibilities for another child at a subsequent time may be granted a second extension.

Back-Up Care Benefit.  All Brown employees are eligible for a back-up care program that provides them with easy access to qualified caregivers on a temporary basis when normal caregiving arrangements break down or when emergency situations arise.  The University has contracted with Work Options Group, whose nationwide network of providers includes thousands of in-home agencies and center-based providers who are able to ensure that temporary, emergency needs for care for children, elders, and others can be met.  Services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and Brown employees will be able to use up to 100 hours of care per calendar year.  More information is available at: 


Dependent Care Travel Fund.  An important part of professional development for faculty is attending academic conferences and working with collaborators at other institutions, yet travel can be difficult for those with childcare responsibilities, and making adequate arrangements for such care can be costly. Eligible faculty (Lecturers, Senior Lecturers, Assistant Professors, Associate Professors, and Professors) may apply for awards of up to $750 per year to assist with expenses incurred in association with professional travel. Examples of expenses that may be supported include additional, above-the-ordinary, hours of care for dependents at home; contracting for childcare at a conference; or even travel costs incurred in taking a caregiver to a conference or on a short research trip.  Spouses, partners, and other family members are not normally eligible for travel expenses or compensation.  Application for funding should be made in writing at least 30 days in advance to the Dean of the Faculty, Box 1857 and should include details of the conference or other event, an explanation of its importance for professional development, the name and age of the dependent requiring care, a description of the arrangements for which support is requested, and a budget. Please note that under current tax law, this is treated as a taxable benefit and is subject to tax withholding.

Dependent Care Assistance Plan.  Brown offers optional Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) that may be used to pay for eligible medical and dependent care expenses in a tax-advantaged way.  The Dependent Care Assistance Plan allows eligible employees to set aside up to $5000 on a pre-tax basis to pay for out-of-pocket dependent care expenses which allow you and your spouse to work, or your spouse to seek work or to study as a full-time student.  More information is available at:


Assistance with Job Searches for Dual-Career Couples.   Brown was one of the founding members of the New England Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (NE-HERC), a collaborative which now includes more than 50 institutions of higher education and affiliated teaching hospitals, including a number of the region's largest employers. NE-HERC is a free database of job openings at member institutions, with a search engine that allows prospective employees to search for jobs by region, job type, or institution;  the website also includes relocation resources and extensive information about local resources, including schools, childcare, cultural organizations, transportation, and so on. For more information, see: 


Employee Assistance.  Finally, let me call your attention to Brown’s assistance program for faculty and staff, “MyLibertyAssist.”  This program, which is run by Liberty Mutual, offers a number of services that will help employees to balance work and personal responsibilities, including financial and legal help and assistance with child care, elder care, and adoption. For more information, see


I hope you find this information useful.  Please don’t hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions or concerns.