Summit County may become first county in Ohio to offer paid time off to spend with newborns

AKRON, Ohio-- Summit County Council could become the first in the state of Ohio to offer six weeks of paid family leave to employees when they have a child.

The proposal was first presented in a committee meeting on Monday.

It would extend the benefit to both mothers and fathers who work for the county, whether they become the parents of a newborn of their own or adopt a child.

Summit County employees currently are extended 12 weeks of unpaid FMLA leave consistent with federal law.

During that time they have to use their vacation and other accrued leave.

The new benefit is the proposal of Councilwoman Elizabeth Walters.

"Economically, from a workforce development side and from a family side, there have been some studies here in Ohio that show increased health outcomes for moms and babies that have time to go home and set up their routine and make sure everybody is healthy," said Walters.

"It is actually shown to decrease infant mortality rates and increase the earning potential of mom over time, as well as dad, when dad has time to be home with mom and baby; they take less sick time over the course of the first year of the child's life, making them more productive members of our work force," Walters told Fox 8.

Walters believes families should not have to use sick leave or vacation time to bond with their child.

"Having a baby is a joyful event but it is neither a sickness or a vacation so having policies that support new families that don't require them to take all of their vacation and sick time is the right thing to do for our county employees," said Walters.

The proposal would have to first pass council. It would then need the signature of County Administrator Ilene Shapiro to become law.

Shapiro says she would have no hesitation supporting it.

"This is about having a healthy, productive community and we need to be able to from a county perspective take a leadership role in providing that for the people that work at the county and hopefully others will follow suit not only in the county structure but in the private sector as well," said Shapiro.

The added benefit is expected to come with an annual cost to the county's general fund of about $15,000 to $20,000.

Shapiro believes it is money well spent.

Walters says the closest other county to offer paid family leave benefits may be Allegheny County in Pennsylvania.

Three Ohio cities: Dayton, Toledo and Newburgh Heights also already offer family benefits.