Paid Leave

Christine Baranowski Swartz sits at home with her three boys (boys from right to left) Reeves, 3, Turner, 1 1/2, and Brennan, 5. She's had all three boys while employed with LCPS.

Times-Mirror/Alexander Erkiletian

Loudoun County supervisors, at the behest of Ron Meyer (R-Broad Run), voted Tuesday to include research on paid family leave for county employees into an ongoing classification and compensation study.

The board commissioned the study in 2016 as a way to determine the county’s standings in terms of employee salaries and benefits.

Meyer first asked the board to direct staff to study the issue apart from the classification and compensation study. However, Supervisor Matthew Letourneau (R-Dulles) offered an amendment, saying putting the study within an already working mechanism was the easiest and most efficient way to get the results.

“I don’t think this is just about data collection. I think it’s about policy options, and it may be true that we can get policy options ahead of time, but to what end if we’re not looking at the whole issue?” Letourneau said.

He added that paternal leave and parental leave for individuals who adopt should also be considered in the policy.

Loudoun County does not have a specific family leave policy for county employees. Currently, employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, which allows for job protection upon a parent’s return to work.

To be able to continue collecting a paycheck while on leave, parents can use paid sick hours. After an elimination period, new parents may quality for short-term disability that allows them to collect 60 percent of their regular paychecks for about six to eight weeks.

A Times-Mirror report in April on the county and school system's family leave policies sparked community discussion on the issue.

Supervisors believe an updated family leave policy will help to retain and attract a high-quality workforce to Loudoun County.

Loudoun is regarded as one of the best places in the country to start a family, according to county staff, “yet our county policies can make it challenging for our own employees to start a family.”

“This is about making sure that we structure our leave policy to stop making people feel uncomfortable about having children [while] working in county government,” Meyer said. “Having children shouldn’t be considered being sick or having a disability.”

It’s a scenario that new parents, particularly mothers, face across the country. Many times, parents must leave their newborns – a crucial bonding time between infant and mother and father – before they’re ready because they’ve exhausted all of their sick and vacation time. Several national studies, including a recent one by U.S. Congressional Joint Economic Committee, found that access to paid family leave significantly increases the likelihood that workers will return to work rather than being forced to quit.

Vice Chairman Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) said most of Loudoun’s surrounding counties’ family leave policies require the employee to exhaust their sick leave as well.

Loudoun County employees, he said, have unlimited sick leave accrual.

“You have to look at this holistically. Loudoun has the most liberal sick policy of any organization I have ever seen anywhere, public or private sector” Buona said. “You have unlimited accrual of sick leave in this county … And so just to say we’re going to pay out a benefit when somebody might be sitting on a year’s worth of sick leave is at a cost.”

Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) has first-hand experience in working as a county employee with the same family leave policy as Loudoun now operates under.

“It’s not a good policy,” Randall said. “Having a baby, you’re not sick. It shouldn’t be a sick leave issue. You’re not sick.”

She said there are other factors to consider beside the county’s unlimited sick leave accrual policy. New employees are likely to not have built up much sick leave and, unfortunately, there are times when babies are born ill and the parents must burn through their paid time off, the chairwoman said.

And, Randall added, when parents do return to work, they have no sick time available to take care of their child if they become ill.

“Little kids get sick all the time, and you have to take time off to take care of your child. And, you’ve already worked through all that sick time,” she said.

(8) comments

jke

Cut full day kindergarten to pay for it!

Buffacuse3

Here's what I noticed....a study was started in 2016 and hasn't been finished yet??? Now we want to amend the study...which will extend it that much further? More taxpayer $$ down the drain...

When I worked private sector in Loudoun, my office stayed open during public holidays--I had to take leave if I wanted a day off with my family. Public employees get that break and many more, including protection from being laid off (workers lose jobs when restaurant closes--did nothing wrong), a grievance process, mandatory benefits, and more. I've worked on both sides of the equation and much preferred being public--and the peace of mind in involved.

So sure, treat our public employees fairly...but understand that many, many folks who pay the taxes that fund their salary and benefits envy them.

NvolvedParent

This will be just another waste of taxpayer money and politicians’ time. The county is a bureaucratic nightmare of biblical proportions. My spouse TRIED to file the proper paperwork for FMLA and has hundred of unused sick leave hours and signed documentation from doctors. It was REJECTED. My spouse tried “intermittent” leave instead. It was also rejected.
The BOS just has their heads buried somewhere because what they currently have doesn’t work and they don’t have a clue on how to fix any of it.

More Cowbell

What planet are our BOS from? Most companies did away with sick leave. They now call it Paid Time Off, which can be used for vacation or sick days. Most don't allow any carry over. And unlike vacation time, it isn't paid out when you leave.
No more pensions, it's called 401K where your company might put in some matching money but majority is from the individual. Medical/Health coverage most companies pay a portion, but individuals are still on the hook for $900-1500/month out of pocket for a family of 3+.

tolerantleft

Unlimited sick pay accrual.... I thought they were for "sick" days. Tell me a private non-unionized position that provides BOTH paid family leave and unlimited sick day accruals.

WesternSky

The county should offer the option of short-term and long-term disability. Similar to private companies, the long-term disability supplement insurance option would be available to purchase during open enrollment. If you think you may need for family leave, the employee would buy it.

Also, as part of the review, Loudoun should change the ability to build up sick days. Sick days are not vacation days that one earns, and should not hold ‘value’ that you can carry from year to year or be able to be shared in a bank for someone else to use.

More Cowbell

Maybe they need a pre study for the study. Just a waste of money.

Loudoun4Trump

The establishment once again putting their interests above the public's....however, glad I can provide paid leave for the government employees

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