Gov. Roy Cooper expands paid parental leave for state employees

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order Thursday expanding paid parental leave for state employees.

"When you're a parent you never forget what it's like to welcome a new baby to the family," Cooper said to begin his news conference.

He went on to explain the importance of mothers and fathers bonding with new children. He cited studies that found more bonding time made women healthier and men more involved in their child's life.

"This new paid parental leave policy will give state employees more time to recover from childbirth and give their newborns the care and attention they need," Cooper said. "It will help reduce gender inequality in our workplaces, and it will help our state attract and retain a strong workforce."

Cooper called on the private sector to follow suit in extending paid parental leave by arguing that it improves employee happiness, health and productivity.

"Parents deserve this time to care for their kids," Cooper said.

READ MORE: Facts about the Paid Parental Leave (.pdf)

The executive order Cooper signed extends paid parental leave for 56,000 state employees. New mothers will now get 8 weeks of paid leave, while spouses and adoptive parents will get 4 weeks of paid leave. During those paid days off, employees will get 100 percent of their paychecks.

"You want to spend some time at home. You want to get acclimated. You want to have that quality time with your children and you want to have an employer and a policy in place that kind of caters to that," said Marcus Bethea, who has been with the Highway Patrol since 2008.

"I'm very fortunate to have access to this leave now but I also think about those other state employees that will have access to leave who might have had to quit their job or lose their job when they had a child," said Rebecca Planchard, with the Senior Early Childhood Advisor for the Department of Health and Human Services. Planchard helped with the drafting process of the executive order.

Cooper said the new paid plan has an estimated cost of $3.5 million, but he said his cabinet agencies believe they will be able to absorb that cost without much trouble. Cooper also said he believes paid parental leave will actually end up being something that saves tax payers money (by helping the government recruit the best employees and by taking stress off of social safety nets that families might otherwise have to use).

Effective September 1, state employees of any North Carolina department, agency, board or commission under the oversight of the governor will receive eight weeks of paid parental leave after giving birth or four weeks of paid parental leave after a partner gives birth or to bond with and care for a child in the event of adoption, foster care or other legal placement of a child. Parents will receive 100 percent of their regular pay while on parental leave, the governor's office said.

"This order establishes North Carolina as a leader in providing Paid Parental Leave to support the health and well-being of parents and children," said Barbara Gibson, Director of the NC Office of State Human Resources. "It is an important benefit for the employees who work hard every day to provide essential programs and services to the people of our state and modernizes our system to serve as a valuable recruitment tool in attracting and retaining more young people in state government careers."
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