Dayton first major Ohio city to offer paid parental leave

The city of Dayton has started offering paid leave to employees who are new parents, a change aimed partly at attracting and retaining young talent to the organization.

During a Wednesday press conference, city officials announced that Dayton is the first major Ohio city to offer full paid parental leave to its employees.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said city employees, especially women, could use some help from their employer balancing their work and personal lives.

“Paid parental leave policies are a critical way to keep our workforce and our local economy strong,” Whaley said.

The city, which employs about 1,900 workers, did not have any paid parental leave.

Employees could seek time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows workers to take unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks while knowing their jobs are protected while they are gone.

But city employees who called off would either have to use their vacation or sick days or not be paid.

Under the city’s new policy, employees who have a natural birth or legally adopt a child will have a 14-calendar-day waiting period, during which time they will have to use their sick time or vacation, or not be paid for missing work.

But after 14 days, the city will give workers 70 percent of their salaries for the next 28 calendar days. Or workers can receive 100 percent of their pay by supplementing their checks with vacation or sick time.

The city’s policy is closely modeled after the state’s parental leave program, said Ken Couch, Dayton’s human resource director.

Also, some city employees are in relationships with co-workers and staff from other departments.

Previously, only one member of the household was allowed to take leave after a birth or adoption. The new policy will allow both partners to take time off together.

These policies strengthen families, reduce economic disparities between the genders and will appeal to young professionals, especially women, Whaley said.

“Women and men that have families or growing families know that the city of Dayton is a place where you can work that will be supportive of your efforts and supportive of your talents at the same time,” Whaley said.

The city estimates about 3 percent of its workforce will use this benefit in the next 12-month period.

The policy applies to permanent full-time and part-time employees who work at least 35 hours per week. It also will allow employees to use unpaid leave without first having to deplete their paid leave.

City officials said the program will not impact the budget because employee salaries will remain the same. But they acknowledge it could lead to a small reduction in productivity.

The city follows in the footsteps of some Fortune 500 companies, which established generous parental leave policies for their employees.

Companies to recently announce paid time off for new mothers and fathers include Netflix, Microsoft, Adobe Systems Inc., Blackstone, Nestle, Johnson & Johnson and Goldman Sachs.

“They know that doing so improves employee retention, job satisfaction, productivity and it helps … attract top talent to that company and the communities that follow this practice,” said Keary McCarthy, president and CEO of Innovation Ohio, which worked with the city to craft the policy.

Meghan Thomas, who is 38 weeks pregnant, is the director of operations for Dayton Municipal Court.

She said the new policy means she will not have to burn through all of her vacation days when she takes maternity leave later this year.

“That will allow me to (use my vacation time to) do follow-up appointments,” she said. “This way, I can have time off for aftercare.”

Paid leave reduces stress on new parents by ensuring they can put their family first and can take time off if there are medical complications or other family needs, Thomas said.

Andrew Doehrel, president and CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, said he trusts the city studied the issue and made an informed decision about implementing this policy.

But he said what fits for the city of Dayton is not necessarily right for every employer.

“Employers are tuned into the needs of their particular workforce … and they need the flexibility to make the right choices for their workplaces and people,” he said.

Critics of paid parental leave sometimes claim the policies can be burdensome for businesses.

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