Ferndale council adopts new parental leave policy

Employees can get up to 12 weeks of paid time off for new baby, adoption

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published January 19, 2016

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FERNDALE — The city of Ferndale has a new parental leave program that will allow both men and women to take up to 12 weeks of time off with full pay.

The new benefit came before the City Council during the Jan. 11 meeting. Councilwoman Melanie Piana, who pushed for the new benefit, said it would not only help the city recruit the best employees, but retain them when the time comes for them to become parents.

Council unanimously voted to approve the policy.

“I am very excited for City Council to consider a new policy that positions the city of Ferndale as a smart city looking at smart policies in looking to attract and retain talent,” Piana said. “Cities are in a position of really trying to compete with the private market, so it is really important that we look at how we can become more strategic at attracting workers into the community.”

The policy gives all employees who are the biological parent of a newborn child, or who have just adopted a child, six weeks of paid time off. After the six weeks, employees can use accrued vacation time and the city will match it for up to three weeks, meaning an employee can take up to 12 weeks.

Human Resources Director Jenny Campos said the policy is about striking a balance between an employee’s work and time at home.

“We want to create a better work-and-life balance within the city,” she said. “Attracting and retaining talent within the municipal arena has steadily gotten more and more difficult, so we are very excited about the opportunity to further enhance our work culture to provide some of these more progressive benefits.”

In looking into the benefit, both Piana and Campos said they believe Ferndale is the first municipality in Michigan to offer such a parental leave benefit.

Michigan Municipal League Director of Media Relations Matt Bach said that the MML doesn’t know for sure, but it does believe Ferndale may be the first to offer this type of policy to its employees.

“Parental leave is not something we track, so we can’t say definitively if Ferndale is the first or only community to offer this type of employee benefit,” Bach said. “But we have looked into this and haven’t found any communities that offer a paid-leave program like this. Certainly what Ferndale is doing is innovative and forward-thinking, and shows how strongly they believe in talent retention and attraction.”

As far as the cost of offering such a policy to employees, City Manager April Lynch said it depends on how many employees take advantage of the policy each year, but she estimated that it could cost about $10,000 a year.

In 2014, the city had four babies born to employees, while one child was born to an employee in 2015, Lynch said. In which department the employee works also plays a factor in the cost, she said, as the Police Department might need to cover overtime, while another department may be able to shuffle the workload.

“What has happened is employees use up all the time they have and come back to work and have no sick or vacation time to manage that new family they have,” Lynch said. “Often we can plan ahead, and we are adept at managing it when people use sick and vacation time. Jenny and I will be tracking that and seeing what it means, and as more and more communities get on this bandwagon, maybe there is a better way to do that.”

While the benefit can be utilized by both men and women, Piana said one of the factors for why she was so supportive of the policy was because it would help attract and retain women in leadership roles.

“Historically, women have had to take their paid time off, and that may not be enough to get them through their pregnancy, as well as recovery,” she said. “This puts the city in a good place to provide this new benefit for employees that enhances the work culture and, in turn, improves the morale.”

Offering such a benefit also makes the city more competitive with the private sector, Councilman Greg Pawlica said.

“Cities typically pay staff a lot less than corporations, and when times were bad, we had the pick of the crop, but when times are good, they are going to want to get better jobs with better pay and better benefits,” he said. “We can’t always offer better pay, but this is a great opportunity to offer something.”

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