On Wednesday, March 29, Columbus City Councilmember Elizabeth Brown along with the Chair of the Columbus Women’s Commission and First Lady Shannon Ginther unveiled the new City of Columbus Comprehensive Paid Family Leave Policy at the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, 111 Liberty Street in Columbus.

The Comprehensive Paid Family Leave benefit consists of two parts: parental leave that provides up to six weeks of leave for welcoming a new child, and a pilot caregiver leave program which grants up to four weeks of leave to care for a seriously ill family member. Both will be reimbursed at 70 percent of pay.

“Workplace policies in our country too often haven’t kept pace with the reality of what the modern family needs. But the facts are clear: what’s good for families is good for business is good for Columbus,” Councilmember Brown said.

“We are proud that this new benefit will cover our entire workforce – from a refuse driver making $19.79 per hour to an IT professional making six figures, whether you’re a new dad, a new mom, or caring for an aging parent,” Brown continued. 

Shannon Ginther, First Lady and Chair of the City of Columbus Women’s Commission, believes this benefit is vital to promote and sustain the health of women in the workplace.

“Women often struggle to find balance in the workplace, having to choose between work and maternity leave,” said Ginther. “Paid family leave gives mothers – and fathers – the opportunity to bond with their child in the first crucial days after birth or adoption. This leads to better health outcomes for the child and strength in the family.”

Paid family leave policies preserve income and increase health outcomes for women, families, and children.

According to Innovation Ohio, rates of infant mortality, immunization, and breastfeeding have all been seen to improve when women have access to paid leave during pregnancy and after childbirth. Statistics from AARP indicate 1.4 million Ohioans are caring for an aging loved one, and due to an increasingly older population, more and more American workers will assume this responsibility in the future. 

Currently, the City of Columbus offers unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act but does not offer a specific paid family leave benefit. In addition, birth mothers have access to short-term disability, but that benefit is not available to spouses or domestic partners, or to adoptive parents.

With the adoption of its policy, Columbus will be the first city in the Midwest and third city nationally to provide comprehensive paid family leave. In doing so, it joins the ranks of companies such as Deloitte and Choice Hotels who know the business benefits of supporting a leave policy made for the whole family. 

In 2015, Innovation Ohio issued a report on the state of paid family leave in Ohio. Since that time, the organization has been a leading voice on the issue. 

“In the absence of a national paid leave law, a growing number of municipalities, states, and businesses across the US have taken the lead to enact the commonsense, family-friendly policy for their workforce,” said Erin Ryan, policy analyst at Innovation Ohio and manager of the Women’s Public Policy Network. 

“Paid family leave policies ensure that working families are no longer forced to choose between their economic security and caring for a loved one,” she continued.

 The policy change also has economic benefits, said Brown.

“Studies have shown increased retention rates for employers who have paid family leave policies,” said Brown. “There is a proven link between reduced turnover and paid leave, which contributes to better workplace productivity and translates to real dollars saved in attraction and employee training.”

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