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N.C. House Democrats introduce bill to give state employees paid parental leave

DTH Photo Illustration. The new bill involves paid time off for parental state employees.

On Feb. 16, N.C. House Democrats introduced House Bill 141, which would provide paid parental leave for state employees.

If passed, the bill would provide up to eight weeks of paid parental leave for full-time state employees and up to four weeks for part-time state employees — in addition to any paid leave already available.

Qualifying circumstances within the paid parental leave bill include caring for a newborn or caring for a newly adopted child, including time for adoption placement. To be eligible, the parent would have to have been employed by the state for 12 months.

If passed, the General Fund would allocate $10 million for the 2023 to 2024 fiscal year to pay for the new parental leave benefit.

As of Wednesday, the bill is in the state House rules committee. If it makes it past the committee, it will be voted on by the N.C. House.

H.B. 141 seeks to build on Executive Order No. 95, which was signed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper on May 23, 2019. The executive order provides eight weeks of paid parental leave for the birth of a child and four weeks of paid parental leave for other situations involving the adoption or foster placement of a child.

This executive order, however, only applies to employees of the governor's office and state agencies that operate directly under Cooper. Other state offices were not required to participate. 

N.C. Rep. Carolyn Logan (D-Mecklenburg) is one of the bill's primary sponsors. She said when Cooper signed the executive order, she tried to introduce a bill similar to H.B. 141, but it did not go anywhere.

N.C. Reps. Amber Baker (D-Forsyth), Sarah Crawford (D-Wake) and Shelly Willingham (D-Bertie, Edgecombe, Martin) are the other primary bill sponsors. 

“I have been a state employee, and when I was pregnant, I was sent home without any pay," Logan said. "We should take care of our employees, and that’s what I intend to do. It's always been my desire to fight for the rights of women.”

The bill would include paid time off for both parents, as long as they are state employees, Logan said.

“I think people are here working and trying to make a living, and we should allow them to have the time off necessary and take care of your child before having to come to work and not worry about losing your job,” Logan said. 

Lisa Finaldi, a community engagement leader at the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation, said paid parental leave is one of the most important policies an employer can implement.

NCECF leads a project called Family Forward NC that advocates for early childhood development and family-friendly workplaces.

“The trend is showing that these policies work and that more employees need to have them,” Finaldi said. 

Family Forward NC has researched bonding as an important medical practice. 

“The American Academy of Pediatrics says that 12 weeks is necessary for proper bonding for a mother to get used to her small child and for her to recover," Finaldi said.

Daniel Gitterman, chairperson and professor of the UNC public policy department, said paid parental leave would be a welcome benefit for state employees and their families.

Gitterman, who has written about multiple employer mandates including minimum wage and mental health parity, said it is unlikely that H.B. 141 will ultimately become law.

“Overall, paid family medical leave puts a responsibility on employers to pay it, and Republicans tend to be more market-oriented," Gitterman said.

Republicans currently hold a 71-49 majority in the N.C. House of Representatives.

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