NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is introducing up to 12 weeks of annual paid family leave for state workers who are experiencing a variety of life events, including parental leave for the birth of a child, adoption or foster care, and care for a sick family member.
The Republican's administration announced the plan Tuesday, saying it will help reduce turnover rates for state employees, help the state save on health care costs and won't cost the state additional money.
“Strong families make for strong communities, and I am proud that Tennessee will lead the nation in supporting our employees,” said Gov. Bill Lee in a press release. “This is an impactful investment in the state workforce and will allow us to continue to attract and retain the best workforce possible.
While 69% of full-time working Americans believe that receiving paid parental leave is important when looking for a job, only 17% of employees across the U.S. have access to it. One additional month of paid family leave is associated with a 13% drop in infant mortality.
“Paid family leave will improve quality of life for state employees both at work and at home. I am grateful to Governor Lee and Senator Dickerson for making this a priority,” said Lt. Governor Randy McNally.
The Tennessee State Employees Association says there's been previous talks to get a measure like this passed and executive director Randy Stamps says he's happy to see it get done.
"We think it’s going to help with retention and keeping good quality state employees on the job. We’ve struggled in this economy with having the number of state employees that we need so this is huge benefit," said Stamps.
The Department of Human Resources says more than 38,000 state workers could be eligible once they meet the criteria.
"This is something that’s going to help let them protect their families, spend quality times with their families and be there with their family when they’re needed and still know they have a job to return to," Stamps said.
The plan takes effect March 1st and applies initially to all full-time executive branch employees with at least one year of service. The requirement won't extend to private employers or local governments.
Lawmakers are working on legislation to include all state workers.
President of SEIU Local 205, issued the following statement:
“This is great news for State Employees, but also for all of Tennessee’s working families. No employee should ever have to worry about job security when there is a medical emergency or a baby on the way. This policy raises the bar for private employers and our local governments to ensure this benefit is the norm and not the exception. We thank Governor Lee for his leadership on this vital policy and urge our city and county governments to follow his example.”