Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Tyler Lowry, Franklin County Commissioners, 614/525-6630
Jodi Andes, Franklin County Commissioners, 614/525-5273
Workers who have to care for a sick loved one face the same agonizing dilemma as many new parents - take a leave of absence and provide care, or continue earning a paycheck?
Many families are limited to those two options because the United States is the only industrialized country that does not guarantee its workforce paid family leave. The Franklin County Commissioners’ updated policy this year to offer that benefit – at least for county employees.
The expanded Paid Family and Medical Leave policy went into effect at the beginning of year and allows county workers to take up to eight weeks paid leave for events like birth of a child, adoption, care for seriously ill family members, or quarantine or treatment due to COVID-19. It is an extension of the commissioners’ historic, temporary Paid Family and Medical Leave put in place early in the pandemic.
“This is a significant benefit for our employees, which is being introduced during one of the toughest eras American workers have had to face,” said Board of Commissioners President Kevin L. Boyce. “This benefit, which is standard in every other industrialized country, is the right thing to do.”
The commissioners’ bold and progressive action created a policy that provides a number of benefits for employees and the county. Research has shown that family leave supports better health for employees and their families, which in turn provides long-term, healthcare cost savings.
It also advances gender and racial equity by not forcing workers to leave their jobs in order to care for their family. About a quarter of American moms return to work a mere 10 days after childbirth; and one in six Americans spends an average of 20 hours a week caring for an elderly or sick family member, according to PL + US, an organization that supports paid leave in the United States.
“Franklin County is proud to take care of our employees when they need to take care of their families. Our commitment to serving every resident, every day starts at home,” said Commissioner Marilyn Brown. “Until there is a national standard for paid family leave, we need more employers to step up and support their employees.”
Family leave will provide greater equity for women and people of color, a 2019 study from the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Georgetown found. That is because women are far more likely to adjust careers around children. Furthermore, the policies would also extend economic security to those in service or other low-pay industries, who are more likely to be of color.
Furthermore, the benefit is also expected to have long-term benefits for the county and its residents with recruitment and retention of county staff.
“We believe we have an outstanding team of Franklin County employees; and we want to make sure they continue providing the best service to residents. A benefit like family leave will not only help us remain competitive, it is also likely to be a great recruiting tool,” said Commissioner John O’Grady.
The policy is another step forward in the commissioners’ efforts to instill racial equity, an effort that has been on-going for several years. A joint public and private review started in the fall of 2018, which looked into why working families continue to slip into poverty at alarming rates; the determination was that racial injustice was a key factor. Then in 2020, the commissioners added Racial Equity as one of their core principles of good governance and continue to focus today on efforts that will provide economic mobility for all.