Dayton’s first year of paid family leave

dayton-ohio-20694_1280In August, 2015, Dayton became the first City in Ohio to announce it was granting paid parental leave to all municipal employees. The City adopted a policy nearly identical to that available to State of Ohio employees: a two-week, unpaid waiting period followed by four weeks paid at 70 percent of a worker’s usual rate. The policy was extended to both mothers and fathers after the birth, adoption or foster placement of a new child. While on leave, employees may use accumulated leave balances to supplement their pay up to 100 percent, and, in some cases, the City approved flexible schedules to allow workers without sufficient leave balances to work part-time and still receive partial pay.

In contrast with the Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires workers to have been on the job for at least 12 months to be eligible for unpaid leave, Dayton extended benefits to all employees. Staff with less than a year on the job could still take unpaid or partially paid leave under the Dayton program.

When it implemented the policy, Dayton used a model published by Innovation Ohio to estimate the rate of leave-taking among its workforce. Using the IO model and data on the Dayton workforce, over the course of a year, the City expected 66 workers to take leave.

One year later, the results are in. In conversation with City of Dayton staff earlier this month, we learned that the actual number of employees who used parental leave was 64, very close to the 66 our model predicted. Similarly, the projected value of the leave according to the IO model was $191,000 while the actual “value” of leave used by Dayton employees was $170,000. (Note: the value of the leave is merely the number of hours at the worker’s usual rate of pay. The City did not actually incur additional costs to offer the benefit.)

Departments were not given additional funds to deal with any costs associated with workers taking leave. Instead, they were told to absorb any overtime costs within their budgets as they would for overtime used to cover other types of leave. Human Resources examined overtime use at the Police Department and found no discernable increase compared to the prior year. No other departments have reported having challenges keeping overtime under budget.

Interestingly, out of 64 employees who took leave, 54 were men. This is unsurprising, given the large proportion of safety forces — still male-dominated professions — in the City’s workforce. Fire Department employees were the top leave-takers, with 23 employees making use of the benefit, followed by 16 in the Police Department.

Also notable was the observation by City staff that most employees use all the paid leave they were afforded, in contrast to findings in California that men are less likely to take leave, and when they do are out for shorter time periods than women. This could be explained by the fact that Dayton’s policy offers 70 percent of pay during leave, with the ability to supplement up to 100 percent using accrued leave, making it far more generous than the 55 percent of pay offered in California.

Today, City staff offered an update on highlights of the program’s first year at its regular Commission meeting. We congratulate Dayton on the anniversary of this important family-friendly workplace policy.