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Hillsborough Co. Commission to explore paid parental leave for full-time employees

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Following the recent move by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and other municipalities around the state and the country, the Hillsborough County Commission unanimously voted on Wednesday to explore the possibility of providing paid parental leave to its more than 5,000 full-time employees.

The idea was proposed by Commissioner Sandy Murman, who said passing such a measure will give a clear message to county employees and millennials that, “You can come to work for government and have a great job, and your benefits will also be in line with the job that you are seeking.”

“We should be a leader on the parental leave issue and doing what we can for employees of the county and for quality of life,” added Pat Kemp, the only other female on the board.

Commissioners Stacy White and Ken Hagan requested for County Administrator Mike Merrill to study what the costs would be to the county and how that it would compare to similar local governments and private companies of similar size.

Two weeks ago, Buckhorn announced a new policy for city of Tampa employees that will provide primary caregivers with eight weeks and secondary caregivers with two weeks of paid leave after the birth of a new child or placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care.

Commissioner Victor Crist, who recently became a new father, said it was important to not only look at the financial need such a policy, but also the psychological aspects of it.

“If a family member with a new child returns back to work before that child is really prepared for that family member to leave the household, there is a huge psychological impact, and that affects productivity,” Crist said.

Murman agree, saying the current county policy of having only one week of paid leave off for a primary caregiver can undoubtedly create anxiety. “We all know that the first months are the most nurturing months for a young mother, a young father with their new baby or adopted baby.”

“It’s not seen on a piece of paper as a finite, but it’s absolutely part of the equation,” Murman added. “They shouldn’t have to decide between working because they can’t afford to take the time off, or taking care of their baby.”

In St. Petersburg, Mayor Rick Kriseman announced a paid family leave policy giving primary caregivers six weeks off in back in 2014. A similar policy was approved in Miami Beach last fall.

Earlier this week, the Seattle City Council voted to expand their previous family leave policy for city employees, going from four weeks to 12 weeks, as well as creating a new four-week family leave policy for employees who need to care for sick family members.

Three states — California, New Jersey and Rhode Island — have paid family leave policies in place, while 18 other states are considering similar measures.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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