Thanks to a new policy, city employees who adopt or have newborns can use up to 14 days of accrued paid time off before taking advantage of the 12 weeks of Family and Medical Leave time granted to them by the federal government.

The time off will be available to both men and women who are full-time, nonunion employees with at least one year of service.

The new policy not only provides more time for working parents to bond with a newborn or adopted child, officials said, but will allow them to earn their full salaries throughout their FMLA leave.

"Under the old policy, employees could use sick leave/FMLA time," Upper Arlington Human Resources Director Chris Brady said. "Under the new policy, employees use their own leave banks only for the first two weeks.

"After that, they are paid at 70 percent of their regular rate and may supplement the other 30 percent with their leave banks.

"This allows the employee time to bond with their newborn or newly adopted child without the worries of going into an unpaid leave status," he said.

Brady said the policy, adopted unanimously by Upper Arlington City Council on May 29, puts the city on a level playing field with some private-sector employers and a growing number of governments, including the state of Ohio, Franklin County and city of Columbus.

A staff report to council from City Attorney Jeanine Hummer said Upper Arlington is the first central Ohio suburb to extend its parental leave benefits.

Hummer's staff report to council May 7 also stated the amended policy would "allow the city to retain key employees who may otherwise leave the workforce, and assist with closing the pay gap between men and women by providing paid leave to new parents to bond with and take care of their newborn or newly adopted child."

Brady said it's difficult to quantify how many employees have left the city in recent years because of its old parental leave policies.

He noted a former city employee left for "a promotion with another city and the lack of a parental leave policy wasn't her main impetus for leaving."

However, Brady said the former employee did say the old policy was "difficult, especially for a newer employee with not a lot of leave built up."

"Once she returned to work, she had no leave available to take the baby to the doctor for wellness or sickness visits," he said.

Brady said the new policy "allows the employee to take time off without the worry of going into an unpaid status or exhausting all leave banks and then having none available for their return to work, often when the newborn or newly adopted child may need visits with a physician."

The extended parental leave benefits were the work of a city employee group recently assembled to review the Upper Arlington's benefit offerings and to make recommendations that would "make us a modern employer of choice," Brady said.

"Parental leave was a main topic of discussion for this group," he said.

"This idea was brought to (city manager) Ted Staton and he agreed with this recommendation."