Kanawha County employees are now guaranteed 12 weeks of paid family leave, county commissioners voted Thursday evening.
The new policy applies to parents of newborn children, adoptive parents, foster parents and grandparents who will raise their grandchildren.
Commissioner Ben Salango said after Congress voted to change its parental leave policy in December, which guaranteed 12 weeks of paid family leave, the county wanted to revise its policy.
Kanawha County’s policy goes a step further, and guarantees paid leave for grandparents who will raise their grandchildren. Salango said the county wanted to serve all employees who will be taking care of children.
“Times have changed; parents are getting children a variety of different ways now,” he said. “We’ve seen a big increase in foster parents and grandparents raising grandchildren, and so we wanted a policy that reflected the change, and I think we’ve accomplished that.”
The county policy before Thursday allowed 12 weeks of unpaid leave.
“Grandparents, foster parents, new parents, adoptive parents should not have to worry about whether they’re going to get paid simply to take care of a child,” he said.
The policy is effective immediately for any employee currently on the payroll. Salango noted the county currently has several pregnant employees.
Any new hires after Thursday must have worked for the county for at least one year to receive 12-week-paid family leave.
Salango said that while there’s a cost to implement this, there’s a greater cost not to.
County employees could, for one thing, just leave to work for the federal government, he said, but it’s also just the right thing to do.
Salango hopes other counties, and the state, will follow Kanawha County’s lead.
“We’re the first governmental entity in West Virginia to do it, and it’s a way to protect our employees, to protect children and protect families,” he said.
Delegate Moore Capito, R-Kanawha, introduced a bill this session that provides 12 weeks of paid family leave for state employees following the birth or adoption of a child, or when a family member is suffering from a serious illness.