Delaware becomes sixth state to offer paid parental leave

Delaware Gov. John Carney has signed a law that guarantees state workers who have been on the job for at least a year 12 weeks of paid maternity or paternity leave. (Shutterstock.com)

Delaware Gov. John Carney has signed a law that guarantees state workers who have been on the job for at least a year 12 weeks of paid maternity or paternity leave. (Shutterstock.com)

Just before the end of the Delaware General Assembly’s legislative session, Gov. John Carney signed legislation that provides for 12 weeks of paid leave following the birth or adoption of a child.

The law applies to full-time state workers, including teachers, who have been on the job for a year.

“Our state employees deserve to spend time with their families when their children are born,” Carney said. “It builds strong bonds and has great health advantages.”

More than 100 countries offer at least 14 weeks of paid family or parental leave. As of 2016, the U.S. was one of only a few countries — and the only industrialized nation — without a mandate for paid maternity leave.

Some major companies in Delaware — including Bank of America, DuPont and AstraZeneca — offer paid parental or family leave to their workers.

Teacher Warren Mays, who was in Dover Saturday night to see the bill signing, said it will help make working for the state more attractive to prospective employees.

“It’s another added incentive to the benefits package that comes for state employees, that goes on top of whatever you get from the school districts as well,” he said. “But if you get 12 weeks paid leave, it’s definitely an attractive offer to anyone coming into the state.”

The head of state teachers union said paid leave will give educators and other state workers time to bond with newborns or newly adopted children.

“State employees will no longer have to choose between taking care of a new child and being able to put food on the table or paying the bills,” said Mike Matthews, president of the Delaware State Education Association.

Paid leave, which will go into effect April 1, is expected to cost the state about $4 million a year. Workers who adopt children under the age of 6 are also eligible for paid leave.

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