FRANKFORT – (KT) A Kentucky state lawmaker is proposing legislation for the 2021 General Assembly to provide 12 weeks of paid family leave to state employees who are new birth or adoptive parents.

Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, who will be sponsoring the measure, said it’s time for Kentucky to get on board.

“The United States Congress passed a parental leave bill for federal workers, and President Trump signed it into law last December,” he said.  “We have a number of sister states that adopted this policy for their own state employees, and a number of our wonderful employers in Kentucky, our international employers and so forth, have this for their employees as well.”

According to Nemes, “This incentivizes family cohesiveness and health.  If you’ve worked for more than 52 weeks, you would receive this benefit of paid leave.”

The Family Medical Leave Act, which has been in effect for nearly 20 years, allows 12 weeks of leave, but does not require that it be paid leave, Nemes noted.  “We’re going to put a little bit of money behind this to support our mothers and fathers for 12 weeks, after either a birth or an adoption.”

Kennedy Thomas, a mother of two who currently works in the Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Office, is welcoming the action by Nemes.

“To take maternity leave with the state, I was limited to using my own sick or vacation leave that I had accumulated,” she said, “or rely on sick leave that was donated to me by my colleagues.”

Thomas said when she gave birth to her second child, she had less than a year in her position, so she had no job protection.  “The anxiety was unhealthy for a pregnant person, not knowing if I was going to get paid time off, not knowing if I could take 12 weeks or six weeks, if I was even going to have a job after having this baby.”

Fortunately, she said, her colleagues donated enough leave time to her, and her boss kept her job open for her return.

“When you consider the physical and psychological effects of childbirth,” Thomas stated, “PTSD, post-partum depression, anxiety, trying to figure out how to breastfeed, and healing an open wound, I think it’s really necessary to have at least 12 weeks of paid time off.”

She added, her husband’s private sector company gave him 12 weeks of paid family leave.

In addition to Nemes’ bill, which only affects state employees, Rep. Josie Raymond, D-Louisville, has proposed similar legislation for the 2021 session, that would require private-sector employers of 50 or more to offer 12 weeks of paid family leave for new parents, as long as they had been with the company for at least a year.

(By Tom Latek, Kentucky Today)

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