The town could soon join a growing number of municipalities across the country that are adding paid parental leave to their portfolio of job benefits for employees.
Councilwoman Lori Bush brought up the issue at the council’s Thursday, Oct. 13, meeting, requesting the board instruct staff to learn more about the cost, implementation and any drawbacks. The support was unanimous.
This comes at a time when several North Carolina county and municipal governments have recently approved offering paid parental leave. The City of Greensboro offers six weeks of paid leave, and Durham County offers up to 12 weeks. The City of Durham also offers six weeks of paid leave under a short-term disability program, and Wake County is considering six weeks.
On Thursday, Bush suggested Cary staff look into “offering up to six weeks of paid parental leave to women, men, same-sex couples that have been employed by the town.” The town employs more than 1,250 people. Employees are eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave through federal Family and Medical Leave Act.
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“At the town, we are committed to being one of the best places to work ... not just in the public sector but also in comparison to the very innovative companies that we have here in Cary,” she said. “So finding ways to entice workers to come and work at the town and stay and grow with us is one of the best ways to retain employees and also to provide great services for them.”
While none of the council members were opposed to getting more information, some had questions and concerns that they hoped to learn more about when staff returned with a report.
Councilman Don Frantz said he wants to know the cost for taxpayers and what the private sector does in Cary in terms of paid parental leave. He also said he would like staff to return with several options to choose from instead of one “take it or leave it” option.
“Having a child is 99 percent of the time a personal choice,” he said. “I don’t know that taxpayers should be financially responsibie for somebody else’s personal choice so that’s something I’m going to want help with as we discuss this is the future.”
Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson said while she supports paid parental leave, she believes it only needs to be provided to the caretaker, whether that is the father or the mother, not both parents.
“It does seem excessive if you have a wife who stays home for six weeks with her company and the husband is staying home for six weeks with his company, that’s where it feels like maybe we’ve gone too far,” she said. “But I don’t know how to handle this.”
But councilman Jack Smith said he thinks town staff should look at the town’s entire benefits package to ensure that it is still competitive with other area public and private organizations. Town Manager Sean Stegall said staff could look at the town’s benefit package separately from researching paid parental leave.
In other business, the council also:
▪ Accepted a grant of up to $40,000 in reimbursements for new equipment and training to increase the effectiveness of investigations involving internet crimes against children.
▪ Accepted a grant of up to $30,000 in reimbursements for the purchase of recycling stations.
▪ Approved an amendment that allows the town’s police chief or an assistant police chief to determine that a service animal is no longer fit or needed for public service and to transfer ownership of the service animal to the animal’s handler.
▪ Discussed looking into adding new awards in Cary – a high-quality builder award and preservation award for developers or builders that go above and beyond in their projects.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608, @KTrogdon