Entering its fourth month, Brooklyn Park’s paid parental leave program “is going pretty well,” says Mike Sable, assistant city manager.

In October, the city became the first in Minnesota to offer its workers such leave in addition to traditional vacation or sick time. Since then, one employee has taken advantage of the program and four more are expected to do so in the next few weeks, Sable said.

“I think [the employees] really like it,” he said. “It’s a recognition that being a parent is a challenge for having that work-life balance, and so getting a little more balance toward families is really important for them.”

The city offers one week of paid leave for new parents of either gender before the use of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. Officials have budgeted $13,200 for the program for this year.

The program also allows for an additional week of paid leave at the end of the unpaid 12-week federal leave.

The city weighed the new job incentives last year as a way to attract and retain a new generation of younger workers, who are expected to make up half the country’s workforce by 2020.

When the City Council was discussing the new job incentive, Sable had said the city replaced 75 workers in 2013, nearly 15 of whom retired. He said the city expects another 75 retirees — 20 percent of its 375 employees — by 2020.

The new program also helps retain current employees who would have left the workforce to raise their kids, Sable said. This flexible policy helps parents stay with their jobs.

Brooklyn Park police officer Dawn Sysaath, 30, is expecting her third child. Sysaath said that during her second pregnancy, she used most of her vacation and sick time for doctor’s appointments. “Now, knowing that you have that extra cushion is so nice,” she said.

St. Paul and St. Louis Park have also adopted similar paid parental leave programs.

In St. Paul, the policy provides four weeks of paid leave to a birthing mother and two weeks to a non-birthing or adoptive parents. New parents in St. Louis Park will be eligible for a 21-day leave beginning on the date of a child’s birth or adoption.

When the program was adopted in Brooklyn Park, older employees told stories of their supervisors not letting them take time off when their kids were born.

“So we came a long way from that to providing a one-week benefit for parental leave,” Sable said.

 

Twitter: @KarenAnelZamora