Centre County commissioners push family leave policy to consent agenda

By CHRIS MORELLI

cmorelli@lockhaven.com

BELLEFONTE — Family first.

At this week’s Centre County Commissioners’ meeting, the commissioners moved a trio of policies regarding leave of absence, public communications and office closings to next week’s consent agenda. And while they were all significant in their own right, the leave of absence policy stood out.

If the measure passes on Tuesday, Centre County will become the first county government in central Pennsylvania to offer paid parental leave to its employees.

The gender-neutral police will allow employees to take six weeks of paid time off for the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child, according to Sue Hannigan, chair of the county policy planning committee.

She said that the leave will be made available to full-time employees who are not subject to provisions of a collective bargaining unit, who have worked for the country for at least 12 months, and who have worked at least 1,280 hours during those 12 months.

“In November of last year, we brought this forward as a potential topic to discuss, to look at,” said Centre County Commissioner Michael Pipe. “One of the things that we were seeing from other counties and states as well … (they) are encouraging families to take that time after the birth, fostering or adoption of a child. The message that we were hearing is that we should be making it easier for families to raise kids.”

The policy says that the paid leave can be taken within six months of the birth, adoption or foster placement and will run concurrently with the 12 weeks of unpaid time guaranteed under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Employees can also continue to use vacation and sick time after the paid parental leave time ends.

The move is not unprecedented in the Commonwealth as Allegheny, Philadelphia and Montgomery County recently adopted a similar policy last month. Those policies also offer paid leave for new parents.

“We encourage our employees to have a healthy work-life balance and paid parental leave would further that mission. It would increase morale and decrease turnover. It would also help the county recruit and retain employees, and help improve employee health and productivity by letting them bond with their newborns and newly adopted or foster children,” Pipe said.

Commissioner Mark Higgins said that he’s happy to see the policy get closer to approval.

“I think in a period of low unemployment, the county needs to focus on employee recruitment and employee retention. This will allow us to attract more, especially younger people to work for the county, such that if you do have a child you can take more than just your vacation days off after the birth of a baby. Having watched that happen twice, you need some recovery time. You really do,” Higgins said.

All three policies will be on Tuesday’s consent agenda.

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