In an exciting step forward, South Carolina lawmakers have approved a bill with near-unanimous support to provide state employees with up to 6 weeks of paid parental leave to care for a new child. A Better Balance was proud to support our partners at South Carolina Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network (WREN) who led the campaign to pass this important legislation.
With this new policy, South Carolina joins a growing list of Southern state governments that are expanding paid family leave for their employees. In 2021, Georgia enacted a paid parental leave policy for state and public university employees and public school educators who are welcoming a new child to the family. And in 2019, North Carolina’s Governor signed an Executive Order to provide paid parental leave to state employees. Similar bills have also been introduced in Tennessee and Kentucky with bipartisan support.
Providing paid family leave is absolutely critical at a time when state governments are struggling to recruit and retain workers, as many state government workforces have not rebounded as quickly from the COVID-19 pandemic as the private sector. To make matters worse, millions of women nationwide were pushed out of the workforce entirely during the COVID-19 pandemic, often due to a lack of support for caregiving needs. By ensuring that state employees can care for their loved ones without risking their paycheck or savings, paid leave is one important tool to help working parents rejoin and remain in the workforce.
Under South Carolina’s new policy, which takes effect on October 1, 2022, state employees who welcome a new child via birth or adoption will receive six weeks of paid leave for primary caregivers, and two weeks for secondary caregivers. In addition, state employees who foster a child will receive two weeks of paid leave. Importantly, employees will not have to use up any of their paid vacation or sick days before taking paid parental leave.
While South Carolina’s paid parental leave policy is an important first step forward, much work remains to ensure comprehensive access to paid family and medical leave for all families across the state. We will continue working alongside our partners to ensure that all hardworking South Carolina families are able to care for themselves and their loved ones without sacrificing their financial security.