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Should state, federal government offer paid parental leave to its employees? P.2

Last time, we mentioned that Governor Dayton has recently proposed paid leave for government employees. The proposal, as we noted, would guarantee sex weeks of paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child. While the proposal has been welcomed by some, objections have also been raised. Among them are that, because many private companies do not currently offer any paid leave for their employees, doing so for government employees would only serve to widen the public-private benefit gap.

Whether or not government should lead by example or let the private sector set the pace in paid leave policy is a matter of debate, of course. President Obama, like Dayton, is among those who feel government should take the first step in offering such benefits. Just this week, the Department of Labor proposed a new rule that would guarantee workers under federal contracts the ability to accrue as much as one week of paid leave per year. The guarantee would be a condition for contracting with the federal government.

The proposal, which would only apply to government contractors that do not currently offer paid leave, requires that a worker be allowed to accrue at least one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours logged. Accrual would be capped at 56 hours annually. Personal illness, illness of a loved one, and caring for a loved one who has suffered sexual assault or domestic violence would all qualify as grounds for leave under the proposal. It is estimated that 828,000 workers would be able to accrue some paid leave if the proposal is finalized, and that around half of these workers currently receive no paid leave.

Naturally, business groups have expressed opposition to the proposal, and it remains to be seen how much support there will be for the proposal, which is still in the public comment period. Regardless of what happens, though, it will continue to be important for public and private workers to know their leave rights and to protect them when they are violated.