I am pleased to report that Shelby County Government has just put the finishing touches on the first paid parental leave policy for county employees. That means, starting next week on July 1, county employees will have access to six weeks of paid parental leave for the birth or adoption of a new child.
Paid parental leave is one of the ways our organization can support families. Paid parental leave ensures that moms have a chance at physical recovery after a new birth. It also ensures that both parents have a chance to bond with the new member of the family. A paid parental leave policy empowers parents to dedicate time to care for their child, positively impacting the well-being of the entire family. Research has demonstrated that nurturing relationships with both parents positively impacts a child’s emotional, social, and physical well-being. Yet, according to one organization devoted to supporting working families called A Better Balance, only 26% of local government employees receive this benefit.
Furthermore, paid parental leave policies are particularly important right now, during this global health pandemic. Let me explain. To reduce the spread of viruses, like COVID-19, we are constantly encouraging our employees to stay home when they are feeling ill. Staying home when you feel sick is one of the best ways to help reduce the spread. However, without policies like paid parental leave, many soon-to-be parents are hesitant to use their sick leave and stay home when they feel sick. They end up holding on to sick leave for when they have the new baby and need to take off. We conducted a survey of our employees who recently had a new baby and that’s exactly what they told us. Employees should not have to strategize about coming to work sick in order to save sick leave for when they are expecting a new child.
We need more tools, like paid parental leave, to ensure that our employees don’t have to choose between returning to work too soon or bonding with the new addition to the family. We need more tools, like paid parental leave, because it helps us recruit the best talent, boost employee morale, and reduce turnover. We are grateful to the County Commission for supporting this measure, particularly Commissioner Willie F. Brooks and Commissioner Van Turner. Commissioner Brooks and Commissioner Turner both worked hard on this new program and sponsored this initiative.
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