Paid parental leave using pooled sick days proposed for Florida government employees

The paid leave would be good for up to four consecutive weeks.

Expectant parents employed by the state may soon be able to tap into paid sick leave pools so they can take up to a month off to spend with their new children.

Many eligible government workers throughout Florida can already participate in programs allowing them to voluntarily contribute their accumulated paid sick days to a collective pool. Those participating employees may then use those days as needed for paid sick, accident or injury leave.

HB 1053, a bill Republican Rep. Vance Aloupis of Miami filed Tuesday, would require Florida departments and agencies to extend that perk to employees welcoming a newborn or newly adopted child.

Aloupis told Florida Politics he based the bill on one Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law in early 2017.

“I spent a lot of time looking at different models,” he said. “Sen. (Marco) Rubio was looking at one allowing individuals to drag down from their Social Security early to use for paid leave, so I looked at that as being possible for state employees, at least through the (Florida Retirement System). But this just seemed — looking at all the models I saw from across the country — to be an important first step.”

Republican Sen. Ana María Rodríguez — who successfully backed a similar measure granting paid parental leave for government workers while serving on the Doral City Council in 2016 — filed a twin bill in the Senate on Wednesday.

The proposed benefit for parents contemplated in the new bill, which would run concurrently and not conflict with the federal Family Medical Leave Act of 1993, would only be available to parents within the first 12 weeks of childbirth or adoption.

The paid leave would be good for up to four consecutive weeks.

Unlike other sick leave pool participants, those using pooled days off for parental leave purposes would not have to first exhaust their own accrued paid sick leave or annual vacation days before using the paid days off other employees contribute.

Aside from that, the existing rules for government sick leave pool programs would apply to new parents.

Government workers are eligible to participate in a sick leave pool only after one year of employment with the state or an agency of the state. They are not required to put back into the pool the same amount of leave time they took out. An employee who cancels his or her membership to the sick leave pool may not withdraw days already contributed to it; however, the contributed days may be transferred from one pool to another if both pools are comparably structured or the administrators of the pool agree to a transfer formula.

The bill would bring the state more in line with several counties, municipalities and businesses in Florida that provide paid parental leave in one form or another. In Miami-Dade County, which encompasses Doral, government employees can take up to six weeks of paid parental leave, during which they can receive 100% pay in the first two weeks of leave, 75% the following two weeks and 50% pay in the final two weeks.

The same rules apply in Miami Beach. Other governments in Florida with similar provisions include Broward County, Hallandale Beach, Coral Gables and St. Petersburg.

On Wednesday, supermarket chain Publix confirmed plans to provide all workers with a minimum of two weeks paid parental leave next year and more depending on the employee’s tenure with the company and whether he or she is employed full- or part-time.

Rodríguez, who was forced to return to work two weeks after giving birth to her first-born son, said she’d like to see the bill prompt other governments and businesses to adopt comparable policies.

“I assumed (then that) parental leave was a given, but I was wrong,” she said. “My hope is that this bill will open the eyes of employers and give those who are expecting the ability to continue working while being able to take the time to attend to their child’s needs.”

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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