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New parents employed by county get paid leave

10/20/2016 - South Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

Summit County Council has adopted a policy granting six weeks of paid parental leave to county employees who are new moms and dads.

The adopted legislation included a newly added section for parents of a child who is stillborn or who dies during the third trimester of pregnancy, giving those employees three weeks of paid leave.

The vote, which took place after two county residents raised objections to it at Council’s Oct. 17 meeting, was unanimously “yes.”

John Franks, a Barberton resident who said he is a longtime volunteer guardian ad litem in Summit County Juvenile Court, told Council he is opposed to paid parental leave for county employees.

“I have no opposition to anyone taking maternity leave ... but paying them for it is a slap in the face to every citizen that doesn’t have that benefit — and the majority of us do not have that benefit,” Franks said.

Two weeks ago, county officials said they believe the annual financial impact will amount to about $84,000, with an estimated $49,000 coming from the General Fund. Those numbers are based on an average of what the county would have spent over the past three years if the paid parental leave policy was then in place.

Carl Buck, an Akron resident, argued the new county policy does not line up with what is offered in the private sector. Also, fathers don’t need paid leave, he said.

Council did not comment on the legislation prior to Monday’s vote, but Councilwoman Liz Walters (D-at large) has said part of the reason she initiated the legislation is to decrease the difference from corporate America in terms of benefits. She also has said the new policy is an effort to help reduce gender disparities in lifetime earnings.

“Paid parental leave is good economic policy, good workforce policy and good family policy,” she said.

Summit County is the first county in Ohio to offer its employees paid leave upon the birth or adoption of a child, and just a few Ohio cities currently provide the benefit, according to information provided by Walters.

Under the new policy, a county employee will be allowed up to 12 weeks of leave following the birth or adoption of a child, and the first six will be fully paid. After the first six weeks, employees will be required to use their sick and vacation time if they choose to remain off work.

Employees must work at least 24 hours per week and have been with the county for at least a year to be eligible for the benefit. Additionally, employees must be the biological or legal adoptive parents and the child must reside with them. Parents also may not hold outside employment while on paid parental leave from the county.

The policy regarding parents of children who are stillborn or who die in the mother’s third trimester replaces one that allowed five days paid bereavement leave coming from workers’ sick-leave banks.

Other business at the meeting included adoption of four items on first reading, all of which also are related to employee benefits. That legislation approved new contracts with Ease@Work for employee assistance program services; Wellness IQ for Vitality wellness services; Davis Vision for voluntary vision insurance; and BASIC for health reimbursement account and flexible spending account administration services.

All four companies have current contracts with the county. The county’s employee assistance program has more than 8,000 participants because it includes a number of other political subdivisions; the county’s wellness plan also extends to employees of other entities participating in its health insurance plan, according to Wendy Weaver, deputy director of employee benefits.

Routine legislation adopted at the meeting included settling a lawsuit alleging a wrongful arrest and imprisonment in 2009, paying $32,500.

Council next will meet Oct. 24 at 4:30 p.m. for committee meetings in Council Chambers on the seventh floor of the Ohio Building, 175 S. Main St. in Downtown Akron.

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