COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — By October, most City of Columbus employees will become eligible for up to 12 weeks of fully paid family leave.

Columbus City Council voted unanimously last week on three ordinances ushering in paid family leave policies for union and non-union city workers across a range of departments. Before the vote, the city offered six weeks of paid parental leave and four weeks of paid caregiver leave at 70% of a worker’s salary — after a two-week unpaid waiting period. 

The new policy will combine them, offering 12 weeks of paid leave at 100% of a worker’s salary, said Nichole Brandon, the Columbus Department of Human Resources director. Qualifying reasons for leave include childbirth, adoption or foster care placement, and caregiving. 

It comes as paid parental and caregiver leave benefits are generally increasing nationwide, according to a Society for Human Resource Management survey. 

“We always look at what others may be doing,” Brandon said. “We want to remain competitive, and of course, we want to be an employer of choice.” 

The benefits will kick in for non-union city employees and local International Association of Fire Fighters Members on Oct. 1, according to the ordinances. The process to merge and enhance the city’s various paid family leave programs took several months, Brandon said.

“We wanted to be very thorough, we wanted to make sure that we weren’t creating any sort of benefit that would have some unintended consequences,” Brandon said. 

And as the city finishes bargaining with some of its unions — such as the local Fraternal Order of Police — the benefits won’t kick in at once for everyone. 

Columbus City Council has also yet to authorize the new policy for the local American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Members of that union largely include city refuse collectors, clerical and administrative staff, some public utilities and public service workers, and individuals in civilian public safety positions. Council should vote at its next meeting on that authorization, Brandon said. 

Brandon said she thought it was the right move to make. 

“This benefit is also for those who find themselves caring for an ailing parent or some other family member that might have a serious health condition,” she said. “It goes beyond the birth of a child and creating a new family. It allows you to also be there for that family in years to come.”