With New Family Leave Policy, Columbus Wants To Reflect "New American Family"

Apr 3, 2017

The City of Columbus plans to provide a new paid family leave policy for city workers. City Council member Elizabeth Brown says most company benefits haven't kept pace with current family needs.

"This policy for us is a workforce issue as well as a values issue," Brown says.

Brown says the policy will allow workers six weeks of parental leave for the birth or adoption of a child. They could also receive four weeks of paid leave to care for a sick family member. Under the policy, employees would receive 70 percent of normal pay.

According to Brown, more than 45 other cities in the United States have similar parental leave policies. But Columbus is the first in the Midwest - and only the third nationally - to include the sick family member policy.

"Dayton, they found their program to be totally cost-neutral, because when you pay somebody 70 percent you're actually saving money on that employee," Brown says.

The city projected the potential cost of the program to be $441,000, but Brown says they will keep looking to control costs.

As is common practice, the paid leave wouldn't kick in for two weeks after hiring - before then, employees would have to use accrued sick or vacation leave or take unpaid time.

Brown says the policy was created out of a conversation between the Council, collective bargaining units, employees and Human Resources. After all, any new policy would affect a large number of people.

"We have more than 8500 workers at the City of Columbus," Brown says. "We're actually the 10th-largest employer in the region."

Brown says that in order for Columbus to stay competitive and retain employees for the long-term, it needs leave policies that reflect "that new American family."

"More working people are both raising families, caring for an aging parent," Brown says. "Workplace policies are often based around this old notion of two parents, male and female, one male breadwinner. That's not the reality."