Middletown latest Ohio city to offer paid parental leave

Starting Jan. 1, all eligible full-time Middletown city employees will be able to access a paid parental leave program that grants between 25 percent and 75 percent of their pay for six weeks for the birth, fostering or adoption of a child. The employees can use sick, vacation or banked compensatory time to make up the pay difference. The amount is based on the employee’s length of service with the city and is concurrent with the unpaid federal Family and Medical Leave Act. FILE PHOTO

Middletown will soon become one of just a handful of Ohio cities or counties to offer paid parental leave.

Middletown City Council approved the new policy that will offer paid time off for all all regular, full-time employees upon birth or placement of a child, either foster or adopted, when it approved the annual pay and benefits ordinance for 2020.

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Acting City Manager Susan Cohen said an employee made the suggestion, and it was researched before the new policy was included in the pay and benefits ordinance.

“It sounded like a pretty good idea,” Cohen said. “The city is constantly reviewing its personnel policies and we’re happy to be able to offer it to our hard-working. We think this will help differentiate Middletown from other area communities when recruiting new employees.”

Cohen said she did not think there will a lot of employees who will request for this type of time off, adding that departments can cover for those employees on this leave. She said this benefit would run concurrent with the first six weeks of federal FMLA. However, this would not extend the length of time allowed off by FMLA, which is a total of 12 weeks.

Of the nearly 400 city of Middletown employees, Cohen said only two employees have asked about the new policy and anticipates there should be more requests made later this year.

The Family and Medical Leave Act was approved more than 25 years ago and requires covered U.S. employers to provide employees with job-protected and unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons.

However, in March 2018, only 17 percent of the civilian workforce had access to paid parental/family leave, and 89 percent had access to unpaid family leave , according to a report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That report said that paid family leave was available to about 25 percent of local and state government employees, and 94 percent had access to unpaid leave.

As of May 2018, there were four Ohio four municipalities, Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus and Newburgh Heights, and two counties, Lucas and Summit, that offered a of paid parental/family leave, according to the National Partnership for Women and Children.

On Dec. 21, President Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act that included 12 weeks of paid parental leave for about 2 million civilian federal employees that starts Oct. 1, 2020.

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Middletown’s benefit would pay a percentage of the employee’s hourly rate, and the payment would be available for the first six weeks immediately following the birth or placement of a child. The percentage of pay is determined by the employee’s length of employment with the city.

• Employees with less than one year of service will receive 25 percent of employee’s rate of pay for six weeks.

• Employees between one year and less than five years of service will receive 50 percent of employee’s rate of pay for six weeks.

• Employees with five or more years of service will receive 75 percent of employee’s rate of pay for six weeks.

In addition, city employees will be able to supplement their pay with their own accrued sick, vacation, PTO or compensatory time banks. But they will not be permitted to over-supplement their pay to achieve a paycheck more than their normally scheduled hours all regular deductions will continue to be taken from the employee’s check.

Those employees that leave employment with the city within six months of utilizing this benefit will have the pay they received from this benefit deducted from their separation pay.