Virginia News

Virginia governor grants paid parental leave to state employees

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) - Two new executive orders were signed by Gov. Ralph Northam Tuesday that create new parental leave benefits for state workers and establish an advisory committee on child care services.

The parental leave benefits in Executive Order 12 apply to Commonwealth employees of the executive branch, which makes up about 99,000 of the 105,000 state workers.

"Introducing a new child into a family is a time of great joy, but can also be stressful,” Gov. Northam said, with First Lady Pamela Northam by his side.

These benefits include 8 weeks of paid leave for moms and dads within a year of welcoming in a newborn, foster child or adopt a kid. They will receive 100 percent of their regular salary during this time off. If two state employees have a child together, they can both take the time off

"In today's economy, most families cannot afford to go without a single paycheck,” he added.

The direct annual cost for this policy, according to the Governor’s office, is estimated at $495,000 because of overtime and contractor expenses for “critical, must fill positions.”

Workers, nationwide, are guaranteed 12 weeks of unpaid because of the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Under the law, a worker’s job is protected during their leave. Before Governor Northam's Executive Order 12, state employees could take paid time off for a pregnancy with their "Short Term Disability Period." The amount of time and pay varies per employee, because of how long they’ve worked for the state. Taking leave for a new child could also include vacation time or days taken unpaid, through FMLA.

Even though she works for the human resources department with the Commonwealth, Brooke Henderson says it was tough to figure this all out when she was pregnant.

"I still found it extremely intimidating to be dealing with policies,” she said.

Henderson has worked for the state for 11 years. When her son, Cade, was born, Henderson used a combination of short-term disability leave, vacation time and unpaid leave to spend time with her newborn. Three years later, Henderson is thankful she was able to take as much time with him as possible.

"He is likely the only child that I will ever have, and it is likely the only time that I will have that period of uninterrupted bonding time with him,” she said, hopeful that the new policy will give other new parents a chance to bond with their children.

This isn’t the only change in Capitol Square for family leave. House Speaker Kirk Cox announced a new policy back in January, giving full-time workers in the House of Delegates 12 weeks of paid parental leave.

When the policy was first implemented, the Colonial Heights Republican said in a statement, “There is nothing more important to a family than those first few months at home as they welcome and share joyous moments with their new child.”

Gov. Northam also signed Executive Order 13, which creates an advisory committee that will study early learning and child care options for state employee’s kids. It’ll be lead by the First Lady.

Focusing on families, Gov. Northam says he hopes this is a “step in the right direction.”

"The Commonwealth can set an example to other government and private employers to explore the same possibilities for their employees,” he said.

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