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Pants for women, parental leave for all LDS Church employees

SALT LAKE CITY — Women employed by the LDS Church may now wear pantsuits or slacks to work, men may remove suit jackets in hot weather and parental leave is available to all.

Women employed full time with benefits who give birth will now be eligible for six weeks of paid maternity leave, according to an announcement made Wednesday morning by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Previously, women were eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year under the Family Medical Leave Act. In the past, mothers often had saved up vacation and sick days to pay for maternity leave.

The new LDS Church benefits also include a paid week of paternal leave per year for men and women in full-time, benefited positions to bond with a new child or children after birth or adoption. A mother who gives birth may take this week in addition to maternity leave.

The changes will impact thousands of church employees. The Human Resources Department shared the new benefits and policy refinements in a one-page handout to those working on church's Temple Square campus.

"Church leadership is constantly reviewing the workplace and its impact on the lives of employees," the church said in a statement. "The work environment at the church is a reflection of efforts to reinforce the important teaching that the family is central to our eternal destiny. The new leave benefits are part of recruiting and retaining a highly effective and happy workforce."

Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles said, "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."

The changes to the policy on dress standards arrive just more than a year after the church announced that women serving church missions in areas threatened by the mosquito-borne Zika virus could begin to wear full-length dress slacks.

Previously, church policy required women to wear skirts or dresses and for men to wear suit coats when moving through the office or working outside.

The policy update also allows men to wear not only white shirts but "light-colored dress shirts." Men must continue to wear ties. They now can remove their suit coats or jackets "for hot weather and movement throughout the building."

The church also announced it will open a new wellness center for employees on the seventh floor of the Church Office Building on Temple Square in October. The center will include cardio and weightlifting equipment, group fitness studios, exercise classes, exercise coaches and showers.

A new, short-term disability plan will be available beginning in December. Employees disabled by illness or injury can receive two-thirds of their salary for about five weeks, beginning one week after the incident.