To keep up with a shrinking labor market, the Town of Marana recently adopted a new policy to provide two weeks of paid parental leave to all town employees.
Curry Hale, the town’s Human Resources director, said the unemployment rate in Arizona is currently at about 4.4 percent, which is a record low.
“So organizations have to be really progressive in regards to their benefit packages that they provide to hold onto their best,” Hale said at the May 7 council meeting.
To be eligible for the paid parental leave, a town employee must have worked for at least 12 continuous months prior to their paid leave, and must have worked at least 1,250 hours during that period.
This is similar to the town’s current Family and Medical Leave policy. The paid parental leave program will take effect July 1, 2019. The employees will have 80 hours of paid time off in a rolling calendar year. If two parents are employees of the town, they can stagger their time off.
The parent(s) must use their time off within the first 10 weeks following the birth or adoption of their child, and the time off must be taken in a single continuous block.
The employee will get 100 percent of their base salary paid on regularly scheduled pay dates. If the parent decides to resign from their job within 30 days of using the paid time off, they will have to reimburse the town. An exception will be made if the employee resigned for a reason relating to serious health conditions or circumstances beyond their control.
Previously, if a town employee was expecting a child, they would have to plan to accumulate sick leave and use it after the birth or adoption.
“Instead of looking at childbirth and maternity leave or paternity leave as a medical event, if you look at it as a benefit it goes a whole long ways in terms of not only ensuring the benefit associated with our existing staff members … but also for those where we are trying to recruit the best to come to our town, this is an added benefit,” Town Manager Jamsheed Mehta told the council at the April 23 budget study session.
The program needs about $48,000 to be set aside by the town. Mehta said theycame to this number from an analysis done by the human resources department.
To derive that figure, staff looked at how many town employees used medical time off for a new birth or adoption over the last five years. They took the year in which there was the most number of those cases, about 15, and if that were to happen again Mehta said it would cost the town about $30,000 to $40,000.
“So this takes the worst case scenario and takes it up to $48,000, just to be sure that we’ve got it covered,” he said.
Matt Christman has worked for the town for six and a half years as a recreation coordinator in the Parks and Recreation department.
Christman and his wife are expecting their second child at the end of September. After hearing about the new policy, he’s pleased he doesn’t have to worry about accumulating enough sick time to make ends meet when the baby comes.
“It softens the burden of having to worry about whether I get paid or not,” he said.
Christman didn’t use a lot of sick time before his first child was born, and was able to use that to be with his family. He still got paid, but said that if some town employees have health issues and use all their sick time beforehand, they won’t have the opportunity to be with their son or daughter.
“When your kid is born you want to be there but you also have to provide,” Christman said. “So this will soften that aspect and that worry that ‘if I take the first two weeks off, am I going to get paid?’”