Hennepin County commissioners have approved one of the state’s first parental leave benefits for employees.
Commissioners unanimously approved the payment of up to three weeks of paid leave for new parents following the birth or adoption of a child. Like the handful of other local governments in Minnesota that have recently added a parental leave benefit, the county thinks the new benefit is necessary to attract and retain employees.
According to numbers collected by the National Partnership for Women and Families, 12 percent of employees nationally have some parental leave benefit. But given increasing rates of retirements as baby boomers “age out” of the workforce, the county is often competing with private employers who offer the benefit. Sixty five percent of newly hired county employees are between 20 and 39.
“In the 30 years since I had children, nothing has changed,” said Commission President Jan Callison. “You shouldn’t have to choose between a mortgage and a family.”
Hennepin County has 8,000 employees. The commissioners did not rely on estimates for what the benefit will cost because they aren’t convinced that the estimates are accurate. Callison said the county will see how other workers cover for their on-leave coworkers and whether there are added costs.
In October, Brooklyn Park became the first local government in Minnesota to approve a parental leave plan. St. Paul followed a week later. Brooklyn Park offers two weeks of paid leave. St. Paul provides four weeks for birth mothers and two weeks for “non-birthing employee parents.” It also provides two weeks for adoptive parents. St. Paul estimated the program there would cost about $200,000 a year for its 2,850 employees.
In Minneapolis, City Coordinator Spencer Cronk said city staff has developed a leave proposal that he will soon bring to the executive committee and the city council.