Durham News

Durham County workers get 12 weeks of paid parental leave

Carlie Rae Bailey arrived two weeks early, but just in time for her dad to benefit from a new Durham County policy that gives him 12 weeks of paid paternal leave.

On Oct. 1, the same day the 6-pound, 12-ounce baby girl arrived, a Durham County policy took effect that gives new parents paid parental leave for first three months after the birth of their child.

Employees who adopt, foster or take responsibility for a child under the age of 5 are also eligible. If both parents are employees, the total paid leave can’t exceed 12 weeks.

“I just think that is awesome,” said Jeb Bailey, Carlie Rae’s father and a Durham County paramedic. “It definitely helps out.”

Like most county employees with a new child, Bailey, 26, planned to take time off through the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and use vacation and sick time. The federal act allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Voluntary supplemental disability insurance programs would also cover a portion of his salary, if he had signed up for the program.

“FMLA leave can deplete time banks,” Bailey said.

Now, he said, he will be able to use that vacation and sick time for doctors appointments, and when he has to stay home if the baby gets sick.

Durham County Manager Wendell Davis shared the policy with the Board of County Commissioners at a Tuesday work session.

“It will promote the bonding between the parent and the child,” Commissioner Wendy Jacobs said. “Studies have shown this is a really crucial time to form those bonds for the developing of the child.”

Jeff Hayes, program director for the national Institute for Women’s Policy Research, described the policy very generous. Most governments with paid leave offer four to eight weeks, he said.

“I think it is the first in the South to do 12 weeks,” Hayes said.

The U.S. is the only high- or middle-income country in the world that does not mandate paid maternity leave, according to an Institute for Women’s Policy Research report.

Only a small portion of employers provide paid parental leave to both mothers and fathers voluntarily, the report states.

Paid parental leave benefits are also rare in the private sector, Hayes said, but are becoming more common in the finance and tech sectors, especially around the San Francisco Bay area. The city of San Francisco offers 12 weeks.

According to a National Partnership for Women & Families report, Atlanta and St. Petersburg, Florida, offer six weeks of paid parental leave. The city of Durham also offers six weeks of paid leave under a short-term disability program.

Orange County, Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Mecklenburg County and Charlotte don’t offer paid parental leave, but allow employees to use vacation, sick time and short-term disability programs in combination with FMLA. Orange County allows employees to take up to six months of unpaid leave.

Wake County is considering offering up to six weeks of paid parental leave for qualified county employees, said Dara Demi, a spokeswoman for the county. The commissioners, who will have to approve the change, plans to discuss it Monday. According to

As inflation has outpaced real income growth over the past 20 to 40 years, employers have to find some innovative ways to address inequality, Davis said.

“The better job we are able to do around making sure that we have first class benefits, the easier it will be to attract good talent and retain good talent,” he said.

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges

County raises minimum wage

On Jan. 1, Durham County will also adjust its living-wage calculation to ensure that all employees make at least $15 an hour.

The change will affect 832 of the county’s 2,600 employees, said Tony Noel, a Human Resources manager.

The county now pays at least 7.5 percent above the federal poverty guidelines for a family of four. That means county workers’ minimum wage is $26,122, or $12.56 an hour. The change will raise the minimum annual salary to $31,200.