Why My Town has the Most Generous Paid Leave Policy in America

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Trevor Elkins with his wife and three daughters

Editor’s note: In the weeks leading up to Father’s Day, we've been asking dads across the country to share their stories about paid leave. On June 6, Secretary Perez met with a dad of three who is also the mayor of a village that recently passed the most generous paid leave policy in America.

In May 2016, Newburgh Heights, Ohio, became the first municipality in the nation to offer six months' paid maternity and paternity leave to public employees. Secretary Perez visited the village of approximately 2,500 people to hear from Mayor Trevor Elkins and employees who will benefit from this policy. We asked Mayor Elkins to share why providing paid leave was important. This is what he told us:

The decision to introduce Ordinance 2016-28, providing six months paid paternity and maternity leave, was a decision derived directly from a combination of personal experiences relating to the birth of my third daughter and a difficult New York Times story about paid leave shared with me by my wife, Laura.

We were thankful to have had a disability insurance policy that covered about 40 percent of her income, but we were pinching pennies to make ends meet. And then this spring, we started thinking more about those who can’t afford to take much time off after reading the Times article. It didn't take long after that to decide to take action.

Secretary Perez (center) with Mayor Elkins (left) and public employees, June 6, 2016. Secretary Perez with Mayor Elkins and public employees, June 6, 2016.

Knowing we had the capacity to potentially impact the lives of our employees in a substantially positive way, to help them build strong bonds with their new children, and to provide for a real opportunity for personal growth, it was our goal to make a statement to the village's staff that we value their ability to balance family and work.

The new policy was written to take effect as soon as legally possible, to be as inclusive as possible as the idea of "family" becomes broader, and to obviously help new children have the time with mom and dad that has become so clearly critical in life development. Ordinance 2016-28 accomplishes all of those goals.

By supporting families at the local level, we are encouraging a much broader spectrum of public and private employers to value work-life balance and expand their thinking about supporting families everywhere. The Newburgh Heights Village Council deserves an immense amount of credit for unanimously passing this legislation as we are not a community with deep pockets or huge financial reserves. However, they recognize leadership isn't always about doing what seems best for the financial bottom line, but in redefining what we as a society view as success – that is, what is right for helping working families be their best, at home and on the job.

It is a real privilege to be the mayor of a council and village that values parents, employees, and most of all children, which we hope will become ever more understanding, compassionate, and supportive of our global community as a result of the small opportunity we were able to start providing here in Newburgh Heights.

Trevor Elkins is the mayor of Newburgh Heights.

Por qué mi pueblo tiene la política de baja laboral pagada más generosa en América

Por Trevor Elkins 

Trevor Elkins con su esposa y tres hijas

Nota del editor: En las semanas previas al Día del Padre, hemos estado solicitando a papás por todo el país que compartan historias sobre baja laboral pagada. El Secretario Pérez se reunió el 6 de junio con un padre de tres hijas que es también alcalde de un pueblo que ha aprobado recientemente la política de baja laboral pagada más generosa en América.

Newburgh Heights, en Ohio, se convirtió en mayo del 2016 en el primer municipio en la nación en ofrecer a los empleados públicos seis meses pagados de baja por maternidad y paternidad.  El Secretario Pérez visitó este pueblo de aproximadamente 2.500 habitantes para escuchar al alcalde Trevor Elkins y a empleados que se beneficiarán con esta política. Le pedimos al alcalde Elkins decirnos por qué proveer bajas laborales pagadas era importante. Esto es lo que nos dijo:

La decisión de introducir la Ordenanza 2016-28, dando seis meses pagados de baja por paternidad y maternidad fue una decisión derivada directamente de una mezcla de experiencias personales relativas al nacimiento de mi tercera hija y una espinosa historia publicada por el New York Times sobre bajas pagadas que mi esposa Laura compartió conmigo.

Estábamos agradecidos de haber tenido una póliza de seguro de baja por incapacidad que cubrió aproximadamente el 40 por ciento de los ingresos de mi esposa, pero tuvimos que estirar cada centavo para poder llegar a fin de mes. Y luego esta primavera, después de leer el artículo del Times, empezamos a pensar más en los que no pueden permitirse el lujo de tomar mucho tiempo de permiso en el trabajo. No pasó mucho para que decidiéramos ponernos manos a la obra.

Secretary Perez (centro) con Mayor Elkins (izquierda) y empleados públicos, June 6, 2016. Secretary Perez (centro) con Mayor Elkins (izquierda) y empleados públicos, June 6, 2016.

Sabiendo que teníamos la capacidad de potencialmente impactar la vida de nuestros empleados de una forma sustancialmente positiva, ayudándoles a cimentar fuertes lazos con sus nuevos hijos y ofreciéndoles una oportunidad real para crecimiento personal, nuestro objetivo fue testimonio al personal del pueblo de que valorábamos que pudieran tener la posibilidad de balancear trabajo y familia.

La nueva política se redactó para que entrara en vigor tan pronto como fuera legalmente posible, fuera lo más inclusive a la idea de ‘familia’, y que obviamente ayudara a recién nacidos a tener el tiempo con mamá y papá que se ha vuelto tan claramente crítico para el desarrollo humano. La Ordenanza 2016-28 responde a todos esos objetivos.

Apoyando a las familias a nivel local estamos alentando a un espectro mucho más amplio de empleadores públicos y privados a que valoren el balance entre trabajo-vida vida y expandan sus ideas respecto al apoyo a las familias en cualquier lugar. El Consejo Municipal de Heights Newburgh merece un crédito inmenso por haber aprobado por unanimidad esta legislación debido a que no somos una comunidad con grandes fortunas o enormes reservas financieras. No obstante, sus miembros reconocen que el liderazgo no es siempre hacer lo que pueda parecer mejor desde un punto de vista económico sino redefinir lo que nosotros como sociedad consideramos éxito, o sea, lo que es justo para ayudar a que las familias trabajadoras prosperen, tanto en casa como en el trabajo.

Es un verdadero privilegio ser alcalde de un ayuntamiento y pueblo que valora a padres, empleados, y a los niños por encima de todo, que esperamos llegarán a ser cada vez más comprensivos, compasivos y defensores de nuestra comunidad global gracias a la oportunidad que les empezamos a dar aquí en Newburgh Heights.

Trevor Elkins es el alcalde de Newburgh Heights.

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It's the entitlement mentality. Yes it's good that they care about their employees but what about those having to double up to make it work.

It's easy to be magnanimous when you are spending taxpayers dollars. Most companies are struggling to stay in business without laying off employees so paying for time not worked is not an option. Salaries are meant to fund an employee's lifestyle and the employee must live or save within their means. If the job isn't sufficient they can improve themselves through education, experience, hard work. Taking time off to smell the roses and bond with baby is something they should save up for.

I find it interesting that only taxpayers can afford to fund paid six-month materity/paternity leaves, and for the most part, pensions. The private sector struggles with these benefits. I wonder why that is?

It is amazing what people do with other peoples money.

so very true.

I was thinking the same thing. I'll bet the taxpayers who are footing the bill for this aren't getting this type of perk. Out of control government spending guised as a "feel good" story.

Trevor, you should be very proud, like I am, of your city and that family comes first and foremost. Keep it up!

If people would simply learn to live on ONE INCOME, i.e., WITHIN THEIR FINANCIAL MEANS, than the wife would not have to work outside the home. It is INDEED possible, by giving up MATERIAL possessions and stupid time waste / money waste things like CABLE TV and CELL PHONES.

So everyone else should pay you to not work because you decided to create another human for which you can not afford to care?



Under the Family Medical Leave Act which is currently 12 workweeks of unpaid leave that businesses with 50 or more employees are REQUIRED to provide to employees who meet the criteria already puts a hardship on those small business who have a staff of 51 employees as an example. Think about it, a lean staff of 51 employees without an employee or employees for up to 12-workweeks is already causing businesses to suffer. Now the government wants those business owners to PAY for an employee to be on a 12-workweek leave. The employer who provides employment for these employees is the one who will pay and deal with the financial, staffing, production, and administrative hardships to keep his/her business going NOT the government. The business owner cannot hire anyone while the employee is out because the employee is protected AND WILL BE PAID. Our current government is killing businesses in America instead of empowering businesses. The reality of this type of legislation will result in more unemployment and reductions in the workforce because businesses cannot afford to pay for these 12-workweeks of leave and all the consequences they cause. They will be better off hiring only 49 employees. The government is costing businesses thousands of dollars not to mention all of the other required legislation the government has put on businesses in order for them to stay in business. I am troubled that the government uses emotional venues such as Mother's Day and Father's Day to push its agenda. Unbelievable but the reality of our current administration. PLEASE STOP - ENOUGH ALREADY!

I agree!!! Enough is enough!!!

Agree with Becky completely. What good is having my job protected while I'm off, if the company goes under trying to pay for an empty chair.

I'm happy that most of these new Paid Family Leave laws are finally including men. But if, as a society, we decide that parents spending more time with their newborns is beneficial to society, then society should pay the cost for that benefit, not just employers and non-breeding employees. Though well-meaning, these laws are no different than a law compelling you to pay for the first 6 months of your neighbor's childcare. Good idea - misguided and unjust execution.

Such strange antipathies expressed by people who presumably are pro-family, in all of the standard right-wing ways! Family-supportive policies like paid newborn leave work in most civilized countries, without destroying jobs. Why shouldn't they work just like that in the USA?

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we saw focus on the employee's responsibility to perform the duties that meed the needs of the employer that hired them in the first place!

I find it hard to believe that a village of 2500 people has the resources to pay a yearly wage (mom and dad 6 months each) to someone not working. The article should have addressed how they are financing this new policy.

I am not a fan of the legislation, but want to point out it only applies to the cities employees. It is not requiring private employers to provide any paid leave. So in your 51 employee scenario, the only impact is the unpaid FMLA.

Good question Karl. People in the US seem to want to live in the status quo. Don't change things even if it is for the good. Case in point - moving away from fossil fuels. In many of the European countries I have traveled, they are using solar and wind energy solutions to for not only businesses but also residential applications. The reliance on coal is no more. Also, pro-family is not just a right wing idea; however, they would like you to think that.

Thanks Becky for a well thought out response. Having any disagreement with this and similar policies makes us look like ogres! However, without thinking through the ramifications, and continually looking to the government to direct our personal decisions, we are in a very precarious trajectory.

And to continue to use a supposedly neutral governmental agency (DOL) to promote these political causes should be terminated.

Makes me think of the classic Bob Newhart sketch....Stop it!

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