Routt County looking to add 12-week, paid family leave policy |

Routt County looking to add 12-week, paid family leave policy

Routt County is looking at adding a paid family and medical leave policy allowing employees up to 12 weeks of leave for the birth or adoption of a child or if an employee or their close family member requires serious medical care.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Routt County is working to add a paid family and medical leave policy for employees, allowing them up to 12 weeks of leave for instances such as the birth or adoption of a child, or a family member’s illness.

County employees eligible for the benefit would be paid 90% of their weekly wage, and the leave would be limited to 12 weeks in a rolling 12-month period, according to a draft of the policy.

Routt County Manager Jay Harrington said one of the hopes is that a policy like this could help attract and retain younger employees.

“If we don’t become flexible, we’re going to keep churning people in and out,” Harrington said. “The discussion we’re having here is happening all over right now.”

Both the city of Steamboat Springs and the town of Hayden have similar leave policies on the books. In 2020, Colorado voters also passed Proposition 118, a state-run family leave program that would start allowing the benefit in 2024.

That state program is also part of why the county is now considering a family and medical leave policy.

Harrington said the county intends to opt out of the state plan, believing the policy being drafted is a better benefit to employees. Individual employees are still allowed to opt in to the state program, but they couldn’t do both.

The state plan has workers and employers pay an additional payroll tax to fund the paid time off, which is based on a complicated formula and is capped at $1,100 a week. The county’s proposed policy doesn’t require any employee contribution.

Commissioners reviewed the proposed policy on Monday, April 18, but anticipate it will need more adjustments before it is ready for approval. One of those adjustments could be how long someone needs to work for the county before they would become eligible.

In the current draft, employees wouldn’t be eligible until after a year of work, but Commissioners Beth Melton and Tim Redmond both felt like that was arbitrarily long. Both saw potential for abuse of the policy, but didn’t feel that worry should lead to the policy being less of a benefit for those using it as intended.

“I don’t think this is a gift by any means,” Melton said. “I think that it’s something that people should be entitled to and I think our policy should reflect that philosophy.”

Harrington said they choose 90% of pay because they wanted it to give employees financial comfort when off, but also give them an incentive to come back. The 12-week length of the county’s policy matches the state’s, as do several other elements.

Commissioners will review the policy at least one more time before approving it. Harrington said he hopes to have it in place before aspects of the state’s program start up this summer.

“Employees are looking for employers who support their needs with their families,” Melton said. “These types of policies support people who have families continuing to work and that’s valuable to us as an employer, but it’s also just the right thing to do.”

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