ATLANTA (AP) – More than 450 Georgia state and public university employees have already taken advantage of a new law granting new parents up to three weeks of paid vacation.

WAGA-TV reports that 143 state employees have taken 13,440 hours of paid parental leave since the law came into force on July 1. 324 University System of Georgia employees also took the vacation.

Public school workers are also entitled to vacation, but school districts keep their own records and have not reported any figures.

A total of 260,000 employees can now have paid time off after the birth, adoption or foster care of a child. Previously, state employees were only entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, as required by federal law.

Michael Polacek, who works for the behavioral health and developmental disabilities department, said he stayed home to help his wife, Erin Schulberg, after their child was born.

“The first three weeks have something. There is so much going on and we are adapting to our lives, ”said Polacek. “It is a spiritual, emotional and physical experience and together as a unit, as a family unit, we can be present for it.”

House Speaker David Ralston, a Republican with Blue Ridge, made the move one of his priorities.

“This is really the kind of life-touching and difference-making action for families,” said Ralston, a Republican with Blue Ridge. “It will be a message to government employees who, in many cases, could probably make more money in the private sector, that we value them, work for the state, and value their service.”

Both mothers and fathers can take the vacation. An employee qualifies after six months of continuous employment with a government agency, college or school.

The measure does not include leave to care for sick family members or because of personal medical problems. It also does not apply to private employers.