A new paid leave plan will make parenting easier for Louisiana employees

In a time of record lows in the monthly unemployment reports, staffing is one of the biggest challenges for any business.

That's also true for a nonbusiness operation, but one with many moving parts: state government.

With a decision by the Civil Service Commission, six weeks of paid family leave to care for a new child is a stronger state policy.

We think it's particularly good for newborns, whose early days of life are significantly enhanced with a parent in the home.

While the nonpolitical commission oversees benefits for rank-and-file employees, Gov. John Bel Edwards matched the new paid leave provision for unclassified positions, which are not part of the Civil Service system.

Edwards made that move via executive order. It makes sense to keep such employee benefits consistent across job categories.

"This is another pro-life thing to do for children and families," Edwards said at a news conference.

Universities are not covered by the new rules, but they employ many Louisianans. LSU has already agreed to a similar plan and we do not doubt that others will follow in the wake of the Civil Service decision.

Dan Tirone, a political science professor who serves as LSU's Faculty Senate vice president, praised the new policy in a statement to the Louisiana Illuminator.

"We have been asking for this option for a long time as its absence has made it difficult to recruit and retain talent since the schools with whom we are competing generally have these policies already in place," Tirone said.

The new benefit for most state workers, about 70,000 of them, kicks in on New Year's Day. As a new governor takes office a week later, it's important to note that changing the policy will be very difficult for the new administration.

The Civil Service Commission's members are nominated by a panel of college presidents, not the typical political process. Given that paid leave is an attractive benefit for workers, we doubt the commission will change its mind.

And we urge Gov.-elect Jeff Landry to continue Edwards' executive order to ensure consistency among workers in agencies statewide, and from administration to administration.

The workforce challenges today aren't getting easier, after all.

While this is a benefit for public employees, it is quite likely to be matched over time by private-sector employers who don't already offer it.

While that is particularly true in the Baton Rouge area, where many state workers live, agencies serve the public in every corner of the state. University campuses are also prominent employers in their communities.

That means this new policy will help new parents all over Louisiana. That sounds like a big win all around.

-- The Advocate, November 14