Update: Commissioners unanimously approved the paid parental leave policy as part of their consent agenda on Feb. 26.
Centre County will become the first county government in central Pennsylvania to offer paid parental leave to its employees.
The Board of Commissioners on Tuesday voted unanimously to put the changes to the county's leave of absence policy on next week's consent agenda, when it is expected to pass.
The gender-neutral policy will allow employees to take six weeks of paid time off for the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child, said Sue Hannigan, chair of the county policy planning committee.
It will be made available to full-time employees who are not subject to provisions of a collective bargaining unit, who have worked for the county for at least 12 months, and who have worked at least 1,280 hours during that time.
The paid leave can be taken within six months of the birth, adoption or foster placement and will run concurrently with the 12 weeks of unpaid time guaranteed under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Employees can also continue to use vacation and sick time after the paid parental leave time ends.
Allegheny, Philadelphia and Montgomery County, which just adopted a similar policy last month, also offer paid leave for new parents.
Centre County Commissioner Michael Pipe said discussions about paid parental leave began last year and that it will help make the county "even more family-friendly."
"We encourage our employees to have a healthy work-life balance and paid parental leave would further that mission," Pipe said. "It would increase morale and decrease turnover. It would also help the county recruit and retain employees, and help improve employee health and productivity by letting them bond with their newborns and newly adopted or foster children."
Commissioner Mark Higgins said the policy will be attractive to current and prospective employees.
"I think in a period of low unemployment, the county needs to focus on employee recruitment and employee retention," Higgins said. "This will allow us to attract more, especially younger people to work for the county, such that if you do have a child you can take more than just your vacation days off after the birth of a baby. You need some recovery time and you need to bond with your child."