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Travis County bush

New perk just dropped for all county employees: Paid family leave

Thursday, February 10, 2022 by Seth Smalley

The Travis County Commissioners Court unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday that marks the first steps toward bringing paid family leave to every county employee. While the policy won’t immediately go into effect, a subcommittee will return to the court in two months with recommendations for the policy; however, the language of the resolution essentially guarantees six to  12 weeks of paid family leave for all county workers.

“We know obviously every county employee works extremely hard and works every day to support our community. They’ve shown up through the Covid pandemic, the winter storm (of 2021), this last winter storm, the water-boil notice and everything else,” said County Judge Andy Brown, who sponsored the move along with Commissioner Jeffrey Travillion. “We want to make sure that our staff has the flexibility to care for themselves and for our family members here at the county.”

“While Travis County employees currently have access to unpaid Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) time, they do not have the ability to take extended paid leave following the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child, or to care for a family member with a serious medical condition,” reads a county press release.

Multiple county employees, parents and local policy analysts weighed in during a public hearing to voice support for the effort. One mother, Deborah Scott, relayed the experience of having her first child, along with an emergency cesarean section, a recently laid-off husband and insufficient paid time to deal with the financial fallout. She compared that to the drastically improved experience she had with the birth of her second child, when she was able to take 12 weeks off.

“I cannot even begin to explain the difference this time had on my mental state, my physical health and the baby’s well being,” Scott said.

Commissioner Brigid Shea pointed out that Travis County will be the second county in the state to offer this benefit.

While many county employees are already well paid, Brown pointed out the policy additionally addresses equity issues.

“Higher-wage workers are more likely to have paid time off or be able to afford to take time off without pay in general. And so by providing paid time off as a county, we will be helping some of our lower-wage workers,” Brown told the court.

“It is important that we recognize that pregnancy is not a disability,” Travillion said. “Our parents now have to use disability leave in order to take time with their children. I think that this is something that we should be working towards.”

Editor’s Note: Andy Brown is on the board of the Capital of Texas Media Foundation, the parent nonprofit of the Austin Monitor.

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