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September 2005

UCAR family-friendly benefits rank at the top


Roger and Karen

HAO's Sarah Gibson and Mark Miesch, with their sons Jeremy (left) and Nicholas. (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

For the last few years, HAO's Sarah Gibson and Mark Miesch have been striking a balance between the sons in their house and the Sun in the sky.

The husband-and-wife solar physicists have worked flexible hours, alternated part-time and full-time schedules, and used the UCAR child care center. Their goal: to spend time with their children while simultaneously advancing our knowledge of solar phenomena.

"I can't say enough about the benefits we get offered here," says Sarah, a Scientist II who has steadily continued her research even while working part time. "We're making use of all the
family-friendly options."

Sarah and Mark aren't the only ones who appreciate UCAR's benefits. Colorado Parent magazine announced in August that it had ranked the organization as one of the state's top employers for working families. UCAR took first place in the nonprofit category.

"We are very honored to be recognized as one of the best employers in the state," says UCAR president Rick Anthes. "UCAR has long prided itself on providing top-tier benefits to its employees, enabling them to balance their lives between work and personal pursuits."

Rick can speak from experience. While his kids were in school, he worked a flexible schedule, arriving at the office before dawn and leaving in the mid-afternoon so he would be home for them.

Katy Schmoll, UCAR vice president for finance and administration, says the organization's rationale for the excellent benefits goes beyond supporting healthy lifestyles. "We're really selfish," she says. "We like to attract good people and we like to keep them. In my mind these programs are essential to accomplish that in today's workplace."

The Colorado Parent recognition, she adds, will be a boost for UCAR recruitment efforts.

Statewide contest

The annual Colorado Parent contest, called Best Companies for Working Families, recognizes employers that institute family-friendly policies. The contest is broken down into four categories: small, medium, and large businesses, and nonprofit organizations.

A panel of judges, composed of community leaders, used such criteria as flexible work arrangements, child care assistance and support, adoption benefits, extended leave for new parents, subsidized health and wellness benefits, and community involvement. The magazine's October issue will profile the winners.


Roger and Karen

Ethan Davis (Unidata), his wife Gwenevere, and son Will take part in August's Up-the-Hill Races, one of several family-friendly events that UCAR hosts each year. (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

Several UCAR benefits drew the attention of the judges, including:

• The UCAR childcare center that was established last year just a few blocks from the Center Green and Foothills campuses. The center offers exceptionally low teacher-child ratios as well as discounts for UCAR employees.

RAL's Arnaud Dumont
has been highly impressed with the center since the first morning his infant son spent there. He and his wife were concerned about being away from their baby for the first time. But any worries were eased an hour after the dropoff when the teacher called to let them know their boy, Alexander, was doing fine.

"That set the tone," Arnaud says. "We've been really impressed. They definitely care about the kids."

• Flexible work arrangements that allow many staffers to telecommute or to adjust their schedules according to family needs, as long as they can get their jobs done.

For one UCAR couple—ACD's Tim Fredrick and MMM's Sherrie Fredrick—this benefit proved critical once their son, Daniel, came along. To spend as much time with him as possible, they worked staggered shifts. Sherrie watched their baby in the morning while Tim worked from 5 a.m. to about 1 p.m., and then Tim took over parenting duties while Sherrie worked into the evening.

"UCAR was very supportive, which made all the difference to us," Sherrie says.

• A family sick leave policy that allows staffers to take time off when children or other family members are ill. If a staffer cannot easily take the time off from work, UCAR helps defray the cost of hiring a designated child care professional to watch a sick child at home.

• A "stop the clock" policy that allows early-career scientists to take time off without being penalized for failing to adhere to a fixed schedule when moving up the scientific ranks. This policy enables scientists like Sarah Gibson to go part time without sacrificing their careers.

• Leave donation, which allows staffers who have accrued more PTO (paid time off) than they will use to donate to a pool for staffers who need to take time off for themselves or their families.

UCAR welcomes staffers' children in other ways as well. There's the annual Children's Holiday Party, featuring photos with Santa and various games and crafts. And children partake in the festivities at the annual Up-the-Hill Races and other UCAR-wide events.

"It's been great," says Sarah. "We've been able to make our family a priority."

• by David Hosansky

Not for parents only

Although the Colorado Parent contest focused on benefits for parents, UCAR's benefits—including a choice of health insurance plans, generous death leave, and employee assistance programs—help all staffers.

Case in point: Katy Schmoll recently used family sick time to take a few days off to help her sister in Chicago who was recovering from surgery.

Other staffers, regardless of whether they have children, use benefits such as flexible schedules and telecommuting. Even staffers with pets get a benefit. They can draw on various UCAR resources for assistance with pet care referrals.

On the Web

For more about UCAR benefits


Also in this issue...

UCAR family-friendly benefits rank at the top

New leadership for EOL

2005 Up-the-Hill Races

Random Profile: Vickie Johnson

NCAR's public face: Mesa Lab tour guides

Short Takes

Construction begins on CG-FL bike path

Delphi Questions

Hurricane Katrina Challenge

Just One Look


 

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