Proponents of Paid Family Leave for State Employees Welcome New Georgia Law • Georgia Recorder

Parents who work in state government and public schools can take up to six weeks of paid parental leave under a new law in Georgia.

Beginning July 1, eligible government employees will have the opportunity to take up to 240 hours of paid parental leave within one year of the birth of their child or within one year of the adoption or placement of a minor into foster care.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed House Bill 1010 on Wednesday, which doubles the length of paid leave for state government and public school employees from three to six weeks.

Nonprofits 9to5 Georgia and the GA Coalition for Paid Leave praised Republican House Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones and Sen. Brian Strickland, a Republican from McDonough, for supporting legislation that would remove a law from the Year 2021, which gives state employees up to three weeks off to care for their family new child.

The nonprofit parental leave advocates stressed Wednesday that they remain committed to expanding paid family leave in the private sector, which is unavailable to 78% of Georgians. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, two-thirds of Georgia residents are unable to take unpaid leave due to eligibility limitations and financial constraints.

Feroza Freeland, senior policy manager at A Better Balance's Southern Office, said Georgia has shown regional leadership by introducing paid parental leave for public sector employees in 2021.

Since then, state legislatures in South Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, Florida and Texas have passed similar policies allowing six to eight weeks of paid parental leave for public sector workers.

Families and the economy benefit from greater access to paid leave by providing greater financial security and peace of mind during difficult times, Freeland said.

The majority of workers in the South do not have access to paid family leave through their employers, while the federal Family and Medical Leave Act only provides for unpaid leave and more than 40% of U.S. workers lack coverage, Freeland said.

Georgia now has an opportunity to take a more significant step soon by providing at least 12 weeks of paid leave to all employees caring for an infant or a sick family member.

“When we talk about paid leave, what we’re really talking about is ensuring that all Georgia families can have financial security and peace of mind during some of life’s most important and often difficult moments,” she said.

Jasmine Bowles, executive state director of 9to5 Georgia, said state leaders should continue to prioritize the well-being of families by adopting policies that provide up to 12 weeks of parental leave and allow employees to take more sick days and family and medical leave , without missing out on the wages.

9to5 Georgia and the Coalition for Paid Leave also support eliminating Georgia's paid sick leave sunset provision to allow employees to use up to five sick days per year to care for a family member.

“We truly understand that supporting the workforce is a priority for all of us, including our state leaders, and is a critical part of a healthy workforce,” Bowles said. “Paid leave for both parents is proven to increase employee retention, reduce turnover and save employers money by not having to hire or retrain.”

Daniel Campos, a Poder Latinx community organizer, emphasized the importance of providing equal access to paid labor to the Hispanic community, which has a large number of mothers who have to return to work shortly after giving birth due to financial difficulties to ensure vacation.

Campos said non-native speakers of English need access to a variety of language resources related to leave policies in the workplace.

“We want to applaud Speaker Pro Tem Jane Jones and Senator Brian Strickland for championing the critical policies Georgians and Americans need,” he said. “But remember, we are not done yet and will continue to advocate for a comprehensive paid leave policy for all Georgia workers.”