Governor Carney Signs Bills to Improve Donated Leave Policies for State Workers

DOVER – Governor John Carney signed two House bills into law Friday that will 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. The bills, sponsored by Reps. Debra Heffernan and Larry Mitchell, will make it easier for state workers to donate leave, and for new parents to use that donated leave to care for and bond with their new family members.

Sponsored by Rep. Mitchell, House Bill 258 allows state workers to donate either sick leave or vacation time without having to donate both in equal amounts. State law previously required a person wanting to donate leave to give up both sick and annual leave – for example, two weeks of sick time and two weeks of vacation.

“There are many state workers who are more than willing to donate their sick leave to help a colleague, but asking them to give up their annual leave was a sticking point. People were deterred from donating because they might not have saved up enough of both types of leave,” said Rep. Mitchell, D-Elsmere. “By allowing a person to donate one or the other instead of both, we will make it easier to contribute time off for co-workers who might encounter unplanned or extended absences.”

House Bill 255, sponsored by Rep. 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 new law, 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.

“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,” said Rep. Heffernan, D-Brandywine Hundred. “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. We should do what we can to ensure that they can spend precious bonding time with their children, while supporting their families.”

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.

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. Rep. Heffernan has legislation – House Bill 3 – that would establish paid family leave for state workers, but tight budget constraints have prevented that measure from moving forward.