Bill To Expand State’s Donated Leave Program Clears House

DOVER – House lawmakers have passed legislation that would expand the state of Delaware’s donated leave program to help new parents as they navigate the birth or adoption of a child.

Having a child is life-changing, but work constraints, money and stress often impact the time parents have with new children. House Bill 255, sponsored by Rep. Debra Heffernan, amends the state’s donated leave policy so that Delawareans do not have to choose between their career and their family when they give birth or adopt a child.

Under this legislation, state workers, including school district employees, would be eligible for up to 12 weeks of donated sick and annual leave upon the birth of a child or adoption of a child under six years of age. That eligibility would expire six months after the birth or adoption. However, employees would be able to use donated leave for maternal or pediatric medical care requiring hospitalization or extended care at home in the one year following the birth or adoption.

“I believe paid family leave is a right for working families, but due to these trying financial times and constraints, this donated leave bill was a step in the right direction to help families today without straining the budget,” said Rep. Heffernan, D-Brandywine Hundred. “No parent should have to make a financial decision to leave their child just a couple weeks after they have been brought into the family and this bill will ease those concerns. However, I will continue to fight for paid family leave.”

National data shows that most caregivers work outside of the home, but families still face many challenges to obtaining family and medical leave. According to the Center for American Progress, 71 percent of children live in a family with either two working parents or a single parent.

Major Delaware employers such as Bank of America and DuPont already offer paid family leave to their workers, but it is not a guarantee at all workplaces.

Under House Bill 255, donated leave applies to an employee’s spouse who also works for the state, and could be paired with any leave available under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

“We invest in early education, and I believe that the earliest early childhood education is when children are babies and they learn from their parents. Many families, however, cannot go without a lapse in a paycheck,” Rep. Heffernan said. “We should do what we can to ensure that they can spend precious bonding time with their children, while supporting their families financially.”

House Bill 255 passed by a measure of 37 ‘yes’ votes, with four absent.