Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. has created a $55,000 fund to support postdoctoral scholars’ childcare responsibilities.
Fellows are eligible to receive $2,000 per dependent child under age 12 per year to offset the cost of childcare. If the fund receives more claims than it can fund, each claim will be reimbursed on a prorated basis.
There are 171 postdoctoral scholars at Queen’s with roughly 80 dependants between them, says Dan McKeown, associate vice-principal of faculty relations.
“If they [postdoctoral scholars] have offspring or dependants, they can do a better job knowing their children are taken care of,” says McKeown. “. . . They’re in that age group where people are having kids. So it was an important benefit from the perspective of the union and we agreed. . . . How this translates into productivity, I’m not exactly sure, but we hope it does.”
During the latest round of collective bargaining, the fellows, represented by the Public Service Alliance of Canada Local 901, gave approval for their bargaining committee to strike if the university didn’t agree to provide childcare benefits. “Because they were willing to go on strike, this allowed the employer to take them seriously and actually do it,” says Silja Freitag, vice-president of postdoctoral scholars at the local.
She added the childcare stipend would allow postdoctoral scholars to focus more on their research and also ensure their partners don’t have to put their own careers on hold to take care of young children. “I always say it’s pretty hard to cure cancer if you have financial worries or if you don’t know how your kids will be looked after,” says Freitag. “. . . The thing is, until we have a better national plan for childcare, it’s going to fall on the employers.”
The childcare stipend will kick in retroactively to July 2016. The union and the university are meeting in May to determine a roll-out plan.
A similar benefit is already available for Queen’s 1,075 faculty members. They can receive $2,250 per child under the age of 12 per year to help with expenses tied to daycare, before- or after-school care and summer camps. The total value of this fund is currently $351,714. If faculty members claim more than this amount, reimbursements will be prorated based on the number of eligible claims. Non-faculty employees are eligible for childcare benefits as well, though each bargaining group’s plan has its own structure.