NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee arnnounced a plan Tuesday to offer up to 12 weeks of annual paid family leave for state workers who are experiencing a variety of life events, including parental leave for the birth of a child, adoption or foster care, and care for a sick family member.
The plan would apply initially to all executive branch employees with at least a year of service but could be extended to other state workers. It is set to take effect March 1.
"Strong families make for strong communities, and I am proud that Tennessee will lead the nation in supporting our employees," Lee said in a written statement. "This is an impactful investment in the state workforce and will allow us to continue to attract and retain the best workforce possible."
The Republican's administration said the benefits will help reduce turnover rates for state employees and assist the state in saving on health care costs, without requiring additional state money.
Currently, any state employees who take unpaid leave allowed under the federal Family Medical Leave Act has that portion of their salaries withheld and the money reverts to agencies in the form of savings.
Lee's office also stressed that the requirement won't be placed on private employers or local governments.
Eight states, plus Washington, D.C., have or will soon implement paid family leave laws that also extend to private industry.
About 80% of U.S. workers in the private sector still lack access to paid family leave.
Last month, Congress passed a bill giving the country's 2.1 million government employees 12 weeks of paid parental leave as part of a defense bill President Donald Trump later signed into law.