Northam grants paid parental leave to state employees

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is granting eight weeks of paid leave for new parents who work in the executive branch of state government.

Northam signed an executive order Tuesday giving executive-branch employees two months of leave at full pay for the new birth or adoption of a child. The policy applies to new mothers and fathers.

The paid leave may be used in combination with other leave benefits and will apply to both parents if both are eligible state employees.

The Democratic governor, who is also a pediatric neurologist, said paid time off makes for healthier children and a happier workforce.

“The steps we are taking today will support the growth of our children, help parents in managing a work-life balance, contribute to a healthier and more productive workforce, and make the government of this Commonwealth an even more attractive place to work,” said Governor Northam. “Paid parental leave and quality childcare options are critical to the health and wellbeing of children and their parents. Through these actions are hoping to set an example for other government and private sector employers and send a message to our fellow Virginians and people across the country about what kind of state we are working to build.”

The state previously provided pregnant women six weeks of paid leave through its short-term disability program following the birth of a child. Workers could also take unpaid leave.

Earlier this year, GOP House Speaker Kirk Cox announced that full-time state House employees can receive 12 weeks of paid parental leave.

Northam also signed an executive order to authorize an advisory commission to study the feasibility of providing early care and learning programs for young children of state employees working around the capitol in Richmond.

That commission will be led by First Lady Pamela Northam.

“We recognize the role that quality early childhood care and education plays in creating opportunity for Virginia children and families, said First Lady Pamela Northam. “We see this important step as an investment in our future workforce as well as an essential support for our working families that serve the Commonwealth.”