CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Efforts are underway in the statehouse and in the state’s largest county to push for 12 weeks of paid family leave following the birth or adoption of a child or when a family member is suffering a serious illness.

Del. Moore Capito (R-Kanawha) and Del. Eric Nelson (R-Kanawha) introduced a measure, House Bill 4189, on the floor Tuesday that calls for that paid time off for state employees.

“We are saying to our critical state employees that we don’t want anybody to ever have to make the decision on whether they are going to have to take a paycheck or to spend those critical first moments with a newborn child,” Capito told MetroNews.

Moore Capito

Under current state law, public employees are allowed to take 12 weeks of unpaid family leave, after exhausting all other forms of paid leave, in situations following the birth or adoption of a child, or when a family member is seriously ill.

House Bill 4189, which would change that to 12 weeks of paid leave, has been referred to the Judiciary and Finance committees in the House.

Capito said that while they will have to wait and see what the fiscal note on the bill says, he believes it will ultimately be a cost-savings. He said he has heard overwhelming support in the House and believes it shows the state is forward-thinking, values employees and wants to attract the best people.

“This is a time when West Virginia is saying that we are going to put families first,” Capito said. “We are going to honor our workers, we are going to lift up and strengthen our working families in West Virginia. I view it as a time for us to plant a flag and say that we are focused on attracting young people. This is an issue that certainly pertains to an upcoming generation.”

Kanawha County, the state’s most populous county home to Charleston, is looking at something similar. At its commission meeting on Thursday, the Kanawha County Commission will discuss and vote on a proposal to offer paid parental family medical leave for all county employees.

According to the commission, currently under the Family Medical Leave Act county employees who have been employed with the county for one year are permitted to use up to 12-weeks of unpaid leave.

The change to the policy would allow for 12-weeks of paid leave for employees, who have been employed for one year, for the following situation: The birth of a son or daughter or placement of a son or daughter with the employee for adoption or foster care, or placement with the employee who is the grandparent, for care.

Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango told MetroNews this is a pro-families proposal while also recognizing the changing times with families. He said the first weeks with a new child, regardless of situation, is the most important.

Ben Salango

“Whether it is birth, whether it is adoption or whether it is a grandparent taking over the care of a grandchild, it’s so important to be present, to be there and to make sure you’re spending that quality time with the children,” Salango said.

He believes the county should not have an issue to cover for someone for 12 weeks, financially.

“We can either have other staff cover the job or bring in temporary employees,” Salango said.

“We will do what we have to do. First and foremost, we want to make sure that our employees and their families are protected. The job is secondary.”