For The Record

Gov. Kemp signs off on three-weeks paid parental leave for state workers

By: - May 5, 2021 6:51 pm

More than 250,000 state employees will be eligible for three weeks paid parental leave after Gov. Brian Kemp signed off on the new benefits Wednesday. Last year Rep. Houston Gaines made the case for the policy surrounded by House colleagues. Jill Nolin/Georgia Recorder

About 250,000 state employees will be eligible for three weeks paid parental leave after Gov. Brian Kemp signed off on the new benefits Wednesday.

The legislation grants paid parental leave to state workers, including K-12 teachers and others, after the birth of their newborn or after they have adopted or started fostering a child.

“By ensuring state employees can take paid time off when they or their spouse have had or adopted a child, we are sending a strong, clear signal that Georgia values every business, every company and job creator, but we also value each other and every worker,” Kemp said before signing the bill.

The proposal was a top priority of House Speaker David Ralston that stalled in the Senate last year. But this year, the bill sailed through both chambers with broad support.

“This new paid parental leave benefit for state employees and teachers demonstrates our continuing commitment to Georgia’s families as they welcome a new child through birth, adoption or foster placement,” Ralston, a Blue Ridge Republican, said in a statement Wednesday.

“While this measure does not impose any mandate on private businesses, it is our hope that it may also serve as an example for businesses looking to attract and retain the best employees,” he said.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Houston Gaines, an Athens Republican, called the bill “pro-jobs, pro-life and pro-family.”

Kemp’s signature paves the way for the leave policy to take effect July 1.

Mindy Binderman, executive director of GEEARS: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students, called the change a “good first step.” Binderman said the time off is not just good for employees but also the employers who see reduced turnover and improved morale.

“This progress comes on the heels of an unprecedented pandemic that showed just how important this policy can be for the health and security of Georgia families,” she said. “This policy is a down payment for our state’s families, and we look forward to working to make future investments alongside Georgia’s businesses, families, and legislators.

“It is no surprise then that nearly nine out of 10 Georgia voters support robust paid family leave policies. In other words, providing paid parental leave makes economic and political sense for all Georgians.”

On the federal level, President Joe Biden has unveiled a sweeping proposal – the American Families Plan – that includes providing up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for workers to care for a newborn, loved one or themselves. The national leave plan would cost about $225 billion over the next decade and would allow workers to receive up to $4,000 a month for up to 12 weeks if fully phased in as proposed.

“We’re one of the few industrialized countries in the entire world that doesn’t have this feature,” Biden said this week while championing the plan in Virginia. “No one should have to choose between a job and a paycheck or taking care of themselves, their parent, their spouse, or a child that’s ill.”

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Jill Nolin
Jill Nolin

Jill Nolin has spent nearly 15 years reporting on state and local government in four states, focusing on policy and political stories and tracking public spending. She has spent the last five years chasing stories in the halls of Georgia’s Gold Dome, earning recognition for her work showing the impact of rising opioid addiction on the state’s rural communities. She is a graduate of Troy University.