Ferndale to give employees 12 weeks for parental leave

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Ferndale — This Oakland County community is one of the first in Michigan to offer full-time employees up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave.

Officials say the move, while estimated to cost about $10,000 annually, will actually save the city money.

Councilwoman Melanie Piana and other city leaders believe the cost of losing or having to train new workers to fill jobs would be more expensive. Plus, without the incentive, the city could lose those with experience and talent.

“It’s exciting and something that is needed,” Piana, who wrote the statute, said Tuesday. “We need it for women and for families and we need it to attract and retain employees, by trying to keep pace with the private sector.

“It’s difficult enough handling the cost of raising a family and adding unpaid leave really doesn’t offer much help. We should do what we can to make it easier for our valued employees.”

Under the plan, unanimously approved by the council Monday, employees will receive six weeks of paid parental leave and can take additional banked vacation or sick days, which will be matched by the city for a total of 12 weeks.

It is an equal gender plan and also covers adoptions.

Matt Bach, a spokesman for the Michigan Municipal League, described the employee benefit as “unusual.”

“We did some looking around back in November when we heard about this and didn’t find any communities that do this,” said Bach, whose members number about 520 cities, villages and urban townships across Michigan.

“I can’t say for certain that Ferndale is the only one. Certainly what they are doing is unusual and shows how strongly they believe in talent retention and attraction.”

While some businesses offer generous paid parental leave to employees, Piana said those in the public sector usually try to bank their unused vacation and sick time to help carry them through an unpaid sick leave of 12 weeks guaranteed under federal law.

It’s estimated about 5 percent of the city’s workforce might take advantage of the program annually, Piana said. It goes into effect immediately.

In 2014, four Ferndale employees took time off to have babies but only one last year, Human Resources Director Jenny Campos said. She said the city has 132 full-time employees, including police officers and firefighters.

“This was just approved Monday night and I’ve already received a call from the wife of one of our police officers seeking more information,” Campos said.


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