Paid family leave for state employees picking up steam at South Carolina State House

State - Regional

COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — Beth Moore and her family are expecting in May.

Moore is the Communications Director for SC First Steps. She said, “One of the very first things I did when I found out I was pregnant was calculate how many paychecks I would lose if I had to take 12 weeks of maternity leave.”

As a state employee, Moore does not get paid family leave. She said through her work at First Steps she understands how important it is to spend time with your newborn.

She said, “It’s an impossible choice to choose between being there for your family and being there for a job, that you not only rely on, but are truly committed to and care about.”

Right now, Moore and other full-time state workers in South Carolina have to use annual and sick leave they’ve accrued if they’d like to get paid while taking maternity or paternity leave.

South Carolina lawmakers hope to change that.

Representative Beth Bernstein (D-District 78) is the sponsor of a Paid Family Leave bill. She said there are many benefits to paid family leave.

The legislation has bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. It also has support from the Governor.

H.3560 would give full-time state employees 12 weeks of paid time off when they welcome a newborn or adopted child to their family. The bill passed the House Ways and Means Committee Thursday morning and is headed to the House floor.

Rep. Bernstein said, “Not only does it promote a better workplace environment and happier employees – it also encourages people to continue working in the state’s employee system.”

She said this will help state government compete for employees in the job market.

According to a fiscal impact statement on H.3560, the South Carolina Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office said offering this could cost the state an additional $5 million a year.

Rep. Bernstein said, at the moment, educators would not qualify for the paid family leave under this bill because they are considered district employees. She said she would be supportive of offering paid family leave to teachers in the future, most likely through other legislation.

According to Bernstein, H.3560 could be taken upon the House floor ahead of the crucial cross over deadline in April. A similar piece of legislation in the Senate has bipartisan support as well.

Moore said the paid family leave would also help get mothers in South Carolina back to work post-pandemic as well. “For them to adopt this would set a really important standard for our state and could impact thousands of other jobs in the private sector as well,” she said.

There are about 74,000 state employees in South Carolina, according to the state Department of Administration.

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