Paid parental leave provision for government employees heads to House floor

The bill is 'an important first step,' said sponsoring Rep. Vance Aloupis.

Legislation allowing expectant parents employed by the state to tap into voluntary paid sick leave pools for up to a month off with their new children is heading to the House floor.

On Monday, the House State Affairs Committee unanimously approved HB 1053, which would require Florida departments and agencies to extend to employees welcoming a newborn or newly adopted child a perk that sick or injured employees already enjoy.

The bill is “an important first step,” said its sponsor, Miami Republican Rep. Vance Aloupis, who told Florida Politics previously he based its language on a measure Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law in 2017.

The proposed benefit for parents, which would not conflict with the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993, would only be available to parents within the first 12 weeks of childbirth or adoption. Paid leave would be good for up to four consecutive weeks.

Unlike other sick leave pool participants, those using pooled days off for parental purposes would have to first exhaust their own accrued paid sick leave or annual vacation days before tapping paid days other employees contribute.

Government workers may volunteer to participate in sick leave pools 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.

While an employee who cancels his or her membership to the sick leave pool may not withdraw days already contributed to it, the contributed days are transferable from one pool to another if both pools are comparably structured or the administrators of the pools 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.

Miami-Dade County Democratic Rep. Dotie Joseph described Aloupis’ measure as an “awesome bill” that brings Florida closer to models of parental leave used across the world.

“Speaking globally, I feel like the United States is the only developed country in the world that does not have some form of paid parental leave,” she said. “I’m glad we’re able to do something about it here in this state.”

Democratic Rep. Marie Woodson, whose district covers part of Broward, said the bill is a way for Florida to do right by its employees.

“We have employees who are coming every day to serve our state,” she said. “This bill would benefit so many of (them), and just like we are watching out for any other groups, we need to watch out for our state employees as well.”

Democratic Rep. Yvonne Hinson of Gainesville, citing her experience using pooled sick leave hours, agreed the bill would bring positive change.

“It is a lifesaver,” she said.

Doral Republican Sen. Ana María Rodríguez is carrying the bill’s Senate analogue (SB 1388). While serving on the Doral City Council in 2016, she successfully backed a similar measure granting paid leave for local government workers.

Rodríguez told Florida Politics in December she was inspired to take up the cause after being forced to return to work two weeks after giving birth to her first-born son. She said she’d like to see the bill prompt other governments and businesses to adopt similar policies.

“I assumed 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 children’s needs.”

As of Monday, SB 1388 has not been taken up by any of the three committees to which Senate President Wilton Simpson referred it.

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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