By JESSICA LEE

Minneapolis will soon offer extra paid time off for its employees who are balancing family and work life.

Parents — whether biological, adoptive, or the spouse of either — employed by the city who work 40 hours per week and are eligible for sick time will receive 120 hours of paid parental leave beginning in July. The Minneapolis City Council approved the policy change unanimously on Friday.

St. Paul's new paid parental leave policy for its city employees took affect at the beginning of the year. The city was among the nation's first to roll out such a plan.

"The city's support for working families starts with our own employees," Mayor Betsy Hodges said in a city news release. "We know this new parental leave policy will help us attract and retain the best workforce for Minneapolis' future."

Minneapolis officials say providing the benefit is a step in the right direction with offering parents necessary support, and other employers should follow suit. City and Hennepin County officials say the policies are helpful in keeping and attracting employees, particularly as governments look to replenish the workforce as older employees retire.

"There are many reasons why paid parental leaves makes sense," City Council President Barbara Johnson said in the release. "Yes, it helps make employees better and more productive, and it also helps the city keep those skilled workers. But in the end, it's what all employers should be offering their employees."

The upcoming change will foster a more positive work environment by giving Minneapolis employees a "safety net" during circumstances when they haven't accumulated other types of paid time off, the city officials said.

"The city's support for working families starts with our own employees," Mayor Betsy Hodges said in the release. "We know this new parental leave policy will help us attract and retain the best workforce for Minneapolis' future."

 “In the end, it’s what all employers should be offering their employees,” Johnson said. “Adding a member to a family is a big change, and parents need time to adjust for that.”

City officials say they do not know how much the new policy will cost the city.

City employees give birth to about 95 babies each year, and adopt two to three children over the same time, said Casper Hill, a city spokesman. The average city employee would make about $5,000 over three weeks in salary and benefits. 

Hill said the actual cost to the city will be lost productivity and depend on whether they need to hire replacement workers, similar to an employee who gets an illness.

Minneapolis is following city leaders in St. Paul and Brooklyn Park, which already adopted paid parental leave policies. Hennepin County commissioners approved parental leave benefits for employees in March.

Minneapolis’ policy is retroactive to the beginning of the year.

Paid parental leave has become a larger, national issue.

President Obama asked Congress for $2 billion to help states create paid family and medical leave programs in his State of the State address.

City officials noted that the United States is the only high-income country — and one of only eight countries in the world — that does not mandate paid leave for mothers of newborns.

But critics argue that paid leave is too expensive and would be a drag on small businesses.

Only about 11 percent of all private industry workers and 16 percent of government employees have access to some form of paid family leave, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Jessica Lee is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.