CINCINNATI — Hamilton County offered no paid parental leave for its government workers until this year. New parents who wanted to spend time with their children had to use their vacation time to do it, Commissioner Denise Driehaus said Wednesday.
She and the rest of the commission voted in June to change that. Now, everyone who works for Hamilton County has eight weeks of paid parental leave and the ability to take four extra weeks unpaid.
For Driehaus, it’s partially a question of creating a competitive workplace.
"What we're trying to do is create a culture at the county where people want to work here, they come here and then they want to stay,” she said. With the old policy, “we were losing talent. We cannot lose talent."
But for longtime advocates of paid parental leave, it’s about saving lives.
Giving new parents time to spend with their baby— without penalizing them by docking pay or threatening their employment status — is critical to their health and the health of babies, said Ali Kathman, who focuses on maternal and child health at Hamilton County Public Health.
“Studies show that when parental leave is paid, infant deaths are reduced, low birth weights are reduced and breast feeding rates go up, which is so important,” she said.
It also helps keep mothers working, rather than forcing them to choose between their child and their job.
“It can do a lot to promote equality in the workforce and reduce gender- and race-based wage disparities,” Kathman said.
Driehaus, other commissioners and parental leave advocates hope Hamilton County is setting an example that businesses in the area will follow.