Minnesota lawmakers are set to debate two bills that resulted from an agreement between state employees and Gov. Mark Dayton, to allow six weeks of paid leave for both parents after the birth or adoption of a child.
Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE) President Chet Jorgenson says research shows paid parental-leave policies help build healthier families and more productive workers, and yet the United States is the only country among industrialized nations that doesn’t have one.
“The large corporations and large cities and counties are implementing paid parental leave; even Donald Trump is an advocate for paid parental leave,” he said. “So, it’s really something that’s coming. I think it’s beyond whether state employees get it, it’s becoming what’s normal.”
Right now, state workers are allowed only on an interim basis to take six weeks off for a birth or adoption. Minnesota would become the sixth state in the country to offer paid parental leave if lawmakers sign off on making the benefit permanent.
Time off helps worker productivity
David Jensen is an emergency management coordinator for the Dept. of Human Services, and a volunteer firefighter for the city of Hugo, both jobs that require helping people in emergencies.
Jensen says when his first daughter was born, he only got to use his five sick days, and a complicated birth meant he spent most of the time in the hospital with his wife. Jensen says his jobs require him to be on his toes.
“Sleep is critical because you never know when the pager could go off and you’d have to respond to an emergency,” he said. “And as an emergency management coordinator, I plan for and help Minnesota prepare for natural and man-made disasters, and those can happen anytime.”
Jorgenson adds paid leave would make Minnesota a family-friendly state, but also helps with worker productivity. The union has noted the employee turnover rate for women of childbearing age is high.
“Being able to know that you are able, when you have a new child or you’ve adopted a child, to stay home with that child for six weeks, be able to retain your insurance and your pay, and bond with that child, is very important,” Jorgenson explained.
States that have paid parental leave policies in place are Arkansas, California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York.