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State agencies to offer paid parental leave

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham ordered New Mexico’s executive agencies Tuesday to offer their employees 12 weeks of paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child.

She signed an executive order that goes into effect New Year’s Day for full-time employees working for the Governor’s Office and departments under her control.

It’s part of an ongoing effort, Lujan Grisham said, to make state government a more attractive place to work. Since taking office a year ago, she has repeatedly said it’s a priority to address vacancy rates and turnover in state government.

“Ensuring that families have time to bond with and care for their children is incredibly important,” Lujan Grisham said in a written statement. “That this was not in place for state employees before is a shame, and I am proud that we are making the situation right.”

The new policy is expected to cost the state about $5 million a year, though the actual figure will depend on how many people take advantage of the offer and other factors.

In 2018, Albuquerque became the first city in New Mexico to offer paid parental leave to its workforce. Mayor Tim Keller signed legislation granting city employees 12 weeks of paid leave in December that year.

The University of New Mexico followed suit in July, offering up to four weeks of paid parental leave.

Lujan Grisham, a Democrat and former state Cabinet secretary, took office at the beginning of 2019.

The vacancy rate in state government has generally hovered around 22%, according to figures released in fall 2019. It has been much higher in some agencies – including a 42% vacancy rate reported in the state’s revenue-processing division in July.

The executive branch of government has about 17,000 classified employees.

The state has held rapid-hiring events to boost its workforce and approved pay raises.

Lujan Grisham has also ordered state agencies to create wellness and fitness policies that give employees time to exercise, and she has required agencies to establish rules for alternative work schedules.

“It’s important to me,” she said Tuesday, “that we set a positive standard in state government, continuing to establish the state as family-friendly and taking action to ensure a healthy and responsible workplace for New Mexico state government families.”

The paid parental leave will be available to new employees during the first six months after the birth or adoption of a child. It will run concurrently with any unpaid leave they take under the federal Family Medical Leave Act.

The employees are to notify their supervisors about 30 days ahead of time so the state can make arrangements to cover their work while they’re out.

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