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Hillsborough Republican wants paid parental leave for county employees

Hillsborough County will consider whether to offer paid parental leave to its employees at Wednesday's commission meeting. iStockphoto.com
Hillsborough County will consider whether to offer paid parental leave to its employees at Wednesday's commission meeting. iStockphoto.com
Published Feb. 14, 2017

TAMPA — A Hillsborough County commissioner wants to follow the lead of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and offer paid parental leave for county employees, too.

Commissioner Sandy Murman said providing the benefit to the county's government workers would help attract and retain talent while investing in local families.

"If we're going to be the best place to live, work and play then we have to put our policies behind that statement," Murman said. "If we're doing all this economic development and marketing and attracting tourists coming here, we want to show our best side and show them our government is modern."

Commissioners will discuss the issue at Murman's request during Wednesday's board meeting. Murman wants the county to match the city's new policy, though that will be up to the board to decide.

A financial impact to the county has not yet been determined.

Buckhorn recently announced that the city would begin offering its 4,300 employees eight weeks of paid parental leave for primary caregivers following the birth or adoption of a child, and two weeks for secondary caregivers. His administration estimated it would cost $290,000 a year.

"Families should never be faced with the arduous decision of whether to take those critical first weeks home with their families or put food on their table," Buckhorn wrote in an op-ed published Sunday in the Tampa Bay Times.

For Buckhorn, a Democrat, the move to offer new parents paid leave echoes a national push by his party to bring the United States more in line with the rest of the world. Nearly every other developed country offers some form of paid parental leave. The United States, meanwhile, requires employers to offer 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

During the campaign, President Donald Trump paid some lip service to the issue, but Republicans have thwarted attempts at national paid leave legislation, saying it would be a costly requirement for businesses.

If Hillsborough takes that step, though, it would come at the urging of a Republican and with the backing of a GOP-led commission. Murman is a Republican, as are four of her six colleagues.

"This is definitely not a political issue, this is a quality of life issue," Murman said. "Families are not a special interest and we are investing in families here."

Under the existing policy, Hillsborough's 4,600 employees receive a week of paid leave, but if new mothers or fathers want more time off they need to use vacation days or stay at home without getting paid.

Murman wants her proposal extended to new fathers, too.

If commissioners decide Wednesday to draft this new policy they could finalize it as early as March.

Contact Steve Contorno at scontorno@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3433. Follow @scontorno.