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State and school district employees now get paid parental leave

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Delaware state employees became eligible for paid family leave Monday.

The state’s new paid parental leave law gives executive branch state employees and school district employees 12 weeks of paid, job-protected leave within a year of the birth or adoption of their child under the age of six. Employees must work for the state full-time for more than a year before they become eligible for the benefit.

When the law was signed, state officials said it made Delaware the sixth state in the country to offer paid parental leave.

“The paid parental leave gives our educators and state workers the time at home in order to recover from a childbirth and to care for and bond with their newborn or their newly adopted children,” said Delaware State Education Association (DSEA) President Stephanie Ingram.

Shelley Meadowcroft of DSEA says before the new law went into effect, Delaware educators relied mostly on accrued sick days and unpaid parental leave through the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.  

“This is huge for us,” said Meadowcroft. “Because you have to bank the sick leave to use it, and you hope that you don’t get sick yourself of a family member doesn’t get sick. ”

Meadowcroft adds that the paid leave may help a new parent save their sick days for another critical time. “If the child gets sick later on in the year, [the parent] can use their own sick leave for that time, instead of using it just for the birth of their child,” she said.

Prior to the paid parental leave benefit, state and school district employees could also use accrued vacation days or short term disability for parental leave, according to officials with the state Office of Management and Budget.

DSEA’s Ingram says paid parental leave helps take finances out of the equation for potential parents.

“Can we afford to have a child? Or even another child? It kind of takes that question off the table,” said Ingram. “This means that our members no longer have to make a choice between the health of their families and their careers.”

Other advocates say paid parental leave could help in recruitment and retention of educators and state workers and is good for the health of their children.

State officials estimate that roughly 1,000 babies are born to state and school district employees each year.  The new law is expected to cost the state around $4 million next fiscal year.


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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