ROCK HILL, S.C. -- Being an employee of the city of Rock Hill could soon be more family friendly.
City officials are reevaluating its parental-leave policy in an effort to make it easier for employees to spend time with newborns.
"I think this is an area we needed to address," said Mayor Doug Echols.
Echols has two adult children, but he still remembers what it was like being a new father.
"I think I took some time, but I certainly don't think I got paid for it," he recalled.
That could soon change for the 951 full- and part-time city employees. A proposal under consideration would offer new moms four weeks and new dads up to two weeks paid time off without having to dip into their vacation or sick time. Currently, employees use vacation and sick time in order to spend time with their new babies.
"They would be able to accommodate the newness of a new child in the family and all the interesting challenges there are with brand new parenthood," said Mayor Echols.
The plan is getting positive feedback from Rock Hill residents.
"I think it's a good idea," said Tarshia Williams of Rock Hill. "I have children and I understand how it is to get acclimated to getting used to having children and it can also be good to have dads there as well. It will be better for the job, you go back happy, your children are happy, your house is happy, you're good."
David Knoble says his wife was able to switch to part-time when their children were small, but he says he sees the value in the city considering fathers in their parental leave plan.
"I don't know if I would've taken it, but I think that benefit available for fathers, especially with a lot of one parent households today is an important benefit to have," Knoble declared.
Caroline Rust-Ward hopes South Carolina pays attention.
"I'm a state employee, that would be nice for the state to do," she asserted.
The United States is the only industrialized nation to not offer paid leave parental leave. Some private companies are filling the wage gap. Several financial firms and tech companies like Netflix now offer up to a year off with pay. Local governments are starting to do the same. New York, Austin and Kansas City now offer paid leave.
In October, Durham County enacted a paid parental leave policy and both Wake and Mecklenburg Counties have discussed such plans. However, Rock Hill could be the first in South Carolina to take this step. With three female and 22 male city employees becoming parents last year, Mayor Echols says the cost to Rock Hill would be minimal.
"My hope is that the city of Rock Hill can be a leader in this type of effort, we have to take small steps at first at that's what this is a beginning process," he declared.
This issue will be on the agenda at the May 16 budget workshop and could go for a vote at the June City Council meeting. If it passes, it could go into effect as early as July 1.
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