Delaware Public Media

State lawmakers considering family leave bills

Apr 23, 2017

Two bills in the General Assembly are taking different approaches to offering more time off for new mothers and fathers who work for the state.

Some lawmakers are once again pushing to extend paid family leave for state employees who give birth to or adopt a child.

That bill would give both mothers and fathers three months of paid leave as long as they have been employed by the state full time for at least one year.

 

Right now, state workers and much of the country can only take three months of unpaid leave required by federal law.

 

“We’re putting so much emphasis on early childhood education and early child development and yet this is sort of a gap that we’re not putting an emphasis on helping families bond with a newborn child or newly adopted child,.”  said State Rep. Debra Heffernan (D-Bellefonte), who’s sponsoring the bill.

 

She says not only will the proposal strengthen family bonds, it could also help attract and retain state workers who might not find such a perk in the private sector.

 

An analysis of a similar bill introduced two years ago estimated paid family leave to cost the state about $1.9 million a year when fully implemented. It’s currently awaiting a committee hearing.

State Rep. Ruth Briggs King’s (R-Georgetown) proposal would give mothers of certain twins who require hospitalization during pregnancy an extra six weeks of unpaid leave beyond the current 12 weeks unpaid.

 

Briggs King says she doesn’t think Heffernan's paid leave proposal would work out as well as she and other supporters might hope.

 

“Especially when you’re talking about reducing the potential for other state benefits and compensation and if you’re not paying and not competitive in your salary I don’t know that that would be the sole factor for people,” said Briggs-King.

 

She says it also isn’t fair to taxpayers to give state workers paid family leave when many private companies don’t offer such benefits, especially in a tough budget climate.

 

Briggs King’s bill still needs Senate approval.