Paid parental leave appears on horizon in Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, the liberal bastion of North Carolina, has not yet established a popular Paid Parental Leave Program for town employees. However, the tide seems to be turning, as Chapel Hill’s mayor described to the ECHO a near finished plan, which should arrive in the Town Council sometime in June.

Mayor Pam Hemminger explained that the town was in the final steps of developing a comprehensive paid leave program. A Town Council established employee work group has been in the process of researching and drafting policy for more than a year. However, Mayor Hemminger has described in more detail the timeframe and the concrete plans being considered in what she says will be “a more overarching, broader policy.”

Mayor Hemminger described a policy in which town employees would gain access to six weeks of paid parental leave, in addition to maintaining the current system in which employees can donate leave hours (a coworker currently has the option to take some of their yearly leave hours, and donate them to a deserving colleague.) Additionally, Mayor Hemminger described a twist on the standard policy of paid parental leave growing popular in the Triangle.

“We are looking to enact a bigger policy that lets people leave for all kinds of reasons, taking care of parents, family, illnesses, and stuff like that,” described Mayor Hemminger, who also said this about the more broad proposed plan. “It’s mostly been wanting to put something into effect our employees wanted to have.”

The basic paid parental leave program is relatively standard, and appears similar to what Durham and Wake counties have enacted. Recently, Morrisville also passed a parental leave program which allowed for six weeks of paid leave. Proponents of the policy cite the attraction for employees and the benefits of maintaining long-term employees. However, the flexible response plan appears to be more utilitarian for all workers and should cover many situations in which employees must take time off. This is the more cutting edge portion of the plan, and most other communities have not yet developed this policy.

Mayor Hemminger explained that the comparably longer process in Chapel Hill is primarily due to the focus the employee work group has on enacting a plan that would be liked by everyone. Chapel Hill residents and town employees can expect to see the paid parental leave plan put to a vote in June, however the broader paid leave plan may remain in development for some time.  

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