The South Dakota State Capitol, as seen on Nov. 2, 2022. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)
A Thursday vote from South Dakota’s Civil Service Commission sent the question of expanded paid family leave for state employees to lawmakers.
The commission voted unanimously to move from eight weeks of paid leave at 60% pay for new parents to 12 weeks of leave at 100% pay. The leave can be used for “bonding following the birth of a child of the employee or placement of a child for adoption,” according to the proposed rule.
That puts the ball in the court of the Legislature’s Rules Review Committee, which meets next in May. If lawmakers sign off, state employees would be eligible for the benefit 20 days after the committee delivers confirmation of the vote to the Secretary of State’s Office.
The paid leave rule change represents part of a wider policy package proposed by Gov. Kristi Noem prior to the recently finished 2023 legislative session. Noem’s plan would have extended family leave benefits to those caring for sick loved ones or for children during a spouse’s military deployment, and would have created an insurance pool for the state and private businesses to lower the cost of the benefit and encourage the private sector to offer paid family leave.
Providing paid family leave promotes strong families and allows employees to spend quality bonding time with their new child, which research has shown has tremendous benefits for the employee, the child and the employer.
– Mallori Barnett, Bureau of Human Resources
Lawmakers balked at the creation of a new, public-private partnership insurance program, but some representatives told Noem’s policy staff that the state could expand leave for employees without legislation.
On Tuesday, the Civil Service Commission heard from state Bureau of Human Resources attorney Mallori Barnett that the limited rule change had the support of lawmakers, and that it would make the state more competitive in a tight labor market.
Paid family leave is also sound public policy, Barnett said.
“Providing paid family leave promotes strong families and allows employees to spend quality bonding time with their new child, which research has shown has tremendous benefits for the employee, the child and the employer,” Barnett said.
Commissioner Kim Jensen asked if the benefit would help those working to care for family members. Barnett said it would not, but commissioners also noted that state employees are allowed to take as much of their accrued vacation and sick leave as they’d like to care for family. All employees are permitted to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave by the federal Family Medical Leave Act.
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