Gov. Little issues Families First Act for new parents

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Under current Idaho law, state employees are allowed to take up to 12 weeks off from work following the birth or adoption of a child.  However, this time off is unpaid unless the employee has accumulated enough vacation or sick time to compensate for maternity leave.

As a result, Gov. Brad Little issued an executive order on Jan. 22 establishing eight weeks of guaranteed paid leave for eligible employees of Idaho’s executive branch agencies following the birth or adoption of a child. The executive order also encourages other state elected officials, independent commissions, the Legislature and the judiciary to adopt comparable policies for their employees.

“Idaho is a state that encourages strong families as the bedrock of our society,” Little said during a press conference.“Parents and children need to be together as much as possible in the weeks following a birth or adoption. Children benefit, parents benefit and the state benefits when we support a culture that balances the demands of work with the demands of family.”

The Families First Act assures parents that they can take eight weeks of paid leave without having to tap into their accrued sick or vacation hours.

“Flexibility and family-supportive policies are essential to recruiting and retaining a state workforce that is productive and engaged,” Little said.

The executive order directs the Division of Human Resources to issue the new policy effective July 1, 2020.

Marissa Morrison, Gov. Little’s press secretary, said Gov. Little decided to issue this executive order as part of his commitment to ensuring Idaho’s children are taken care of. 

“The governor has been a champion of family and education is his number one priority. And a lot of that starts in the family,” Morrison said. “So he wanted to make sure that flexibility and family supportive policies were in place not only for recruiting and retaining that state workforce, but also to start kids on the right path, you know, to help parents establish that relationship in the home. It kind of goes hand in hand with his education initiatives as well.”

Morrison said the response to the executive order from the community has been very positive but many people have stated concerns about the cost associated with this new law. According to a press release from Gov. Little, the fiscal impact is intended to be very small.

April Arnzen, senior vice-president for human resources at Micron, which has 37,000 employees globally and a big presence in Boise, spoke at the signing of Gov. Little’s executive order and is very supportive of the bill. As an employee of a large company like Micron, Arnzen explained that 98% of tech companies offer paid parental leave in an effort to maintain low turnover rates.

“The state of Idaho is on the forefront of supporting a family-friendly environment,” Arnzen said. “For those of us who have led teams or owned our own businesses, we know the cost of turnover is high.”

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