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FL state workers see expansion of parental leave under new rules

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FL state workers see expansion of parental leave under new rules

Sep 19, 2023 | 2:52 pm ET
By Michael Moline
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FL state workers see expansion of parental leave under new rules
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Mother and baby. Credit: Image Source/Getty Images

Employees in three dozen Florida state agencies will see as much as nine weeks of paid maternal leave and two weeks leave for fathers under rules adopted this week by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet.

Previously, new parents had to cobble together leave periods using their paid annual or sick leave.

“Compared to other Southeastern states, this is the most robust paid leave policy for mothers following birth,” the governor’s office said in a press release issued Monday, after the governor and Cabinet approved the changes.

“As a father of three, I know how instrumental those first weeks are for new parents and their children,” DeSantis said in a written statement.

“The most important job I will ever have is being a mother to Madison, Mason, and Mamie,” First Lady Casey DeSantis said. “In Florida, we believe family is everything, which is why we are proud to provide much needed maternal and family leave to Florida families.”

No one was seated at the dais during the discussion on Monday, which was conducted by telephone, although agency heads were present to address the elected officials. DeSantis frequently has been out of the state campaigning for president, but was in Florida on Monday, meeting with Clay County commissioners that morning and holding a press conference that afternoon in Jacksonville.

Members of the Cabinet are Attorney General Ashley Moody, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Agriculture Commissioner Wilson Simpson.

The new policy provides:

  • Seven weeks paid maternity leave within the first 12 months of the birth of a child.
  • Two weeks of paid parental leave within the first 12 months of a birth or adoption. (Equals nine weeks when combined with the maternity leave.)
  • Use of up to four months of sick leave within the first 12 months.

Under the old policy, mothers could apply up to six to eight weeks of personal accrued sick leave to recover from childbirth or use transferred sick leave credits if allowed by a particular agency.

Mothers also could use accrued annual leave following a birth or adoption of a child or after becoming a foster parent or legal guardian.

They could take unpaid leave if they’ve already exhausted their sick or annual leave or apply short-term disability insurance.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act and the state’s Family Supportive Work Program provide 12 weeks’ and six months’ unpaid protected leave, respectively, according to DMS.

A father could use sick leave only if a doctor deems it medically necessary for him to care for the child or the mother.

Department of Management Services Secretary Pedro Allende said the change will help his agency’s mission “of attracting and retaining a highly qualified state workforce.”

The policy applies to employees of 36 state agencies, including the departments of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Corrections, Emergency Management, Health, and Transportation.