Allen County Commissioners

From left, the Allen County Board of Commissioners is Nelson Peters, Richard Beck and Therese Brown.

Allen County needs to compete with other communities for workers, so it has added paid parental leave to its benefits package that covers fathers and mothers after births and adoptions.

The Allen County Board of Commissioners on Aug. 2 approved a new parental leave policy for eligible county employees that will provide up to three weeks of paid leave for fathers and mothers during the six months immediately after the birth or adoption of a child.

The new policy, which went into effect immediately after its approval, applies to full-time employees who have been in a regular (benefits-eligible) status for at least 12 months, regardless of their gender.

The county didn’t have paid parental leave. Eligible mothers could take up to 12 weeks unpaid leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act after the birth of a child. They could also take six-eight weeks of short-term disability pay — 60% of their salary — after the birth of a child, with the longer time for Caesarean birth recovery.

The county’s Human Resources Department made the recommendation for the new policy, which falls in line with the county’s strategic priorities and goals.

It will give “parents additional flexibility, bonding time with their new child, additional time to adjust to the new situation, and be able to better balance their work obligations,” Charity Murphy, county human resources director, told Commissioners Nelson Peters and Richard Beck. Therese Brown was absent.

It’s a better work-life balance and should increase productivity at work and lower employee turnover, she said.

“Research shows if you have a new mother, or father, that comes back to work too early, and they’re worried about the child at home, they’re worried about work here, there’s a loss of productivity in that mix.”

It’s not asking for more money from County Council, just using the already-budgeted amount, Murphy said.

Originally, Peters said he was concerned about the cost of having an employee gone from the job, which might prompt the public to say that the employee isn’t there so that position is not needed.

“It is fair to say, the employee really isn’t gone long enough to impact the normal workflow, in that the short period of time ... can’t those (other) employees sort of pick up the duties for that short period of time?”

Yes, which already happens when employees are out on FMLA or short-term disability, Murphy said.

Peters said it’s a bonus in attracting workers.

“It keeps people here and wanting to come here,” he said.

“Since we have found ourselves in an increasingly competitive recruiting market, we are always seeking ways to enhance our benefits to our employees on a low-cost basis,” he said, according to a statement from Allen County government.

Commissioner Richard Beck said, “Research tells us the No. 1 reason people leave employers today is for poor benefits; it used to be bad management. ... So it’s the right move for the county to take.”

The three weeks of paid leave must be used consecutively within the first six months of becoming a parent, and run concurrent with the 12-week Family and Medical Leave Act that an employee can take. If both parents are employed by Allen County, each will receive three weeks of leave, at the same or different time as the other parent.

The commissioners also approved:

• Renewing the Allen County Syringe Services Program through Oct. 5, 2021, on behalf of the Allen County Department of Health.

• New set standards in all departments for overtime and compensatory time.

Some employees are listed as full time even though they work 37.5 hours a week. However, they will only get paid an hourly rate, not time and a half, for up to 40 hours of work, Murphy told the commissioners. After that, employees can earn overtime, which can be banked for a maximum of 40 hours. The time must be used up or they must be paid for the time by March 1 the following year.

The deadline was extended past the calendar year because some departments, such as the election board and highway department, might have busy winter months during which employees can’t take time off, Murphy said.

“So,” Peters said, “part of the reason for doing that cap is to ensure that people aren’t using time in 2021 at a 2021 rate when they’ve earned it potentially in 2019.”

Yes, Murphy said, and even more importantly, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employees could accrue up to 240 comp hours from, say, 2015 and leave the county in 2020, requiring a payment to them for all that time at a much larger rate.

• A policy to compensate non-exempt workers who are required to be on-call with a minimum amount of pay if they are called into work during their off-hours.

On-call workers are listed as ready to return to work outside of normal work hours. The policy does not cover employees whose jobs include taking phone calls. For instance, the risk manager receives calls about employee vehicle crashes, Murphy said. It also doesn’t apply to an emergency situation.

On-call shifts are 24 hours long, and employees will receive a minimum of 1 hour of pay even if they work less than that. It’s not calculated as time worked for FLSA or OT requirements.

If the employee is called back into work, he or she receives a minimum of 2 hours of pay. Those called out on holidays will receive holiday pay plus the hours worked or the 2-hour minimum.

• Rezoning 8.8 acres on the west side of the 10400 to 10500 block of Roth Road in Grabill from A1/Agricultural to I2/General Industrial to permit the existing uses of Dutch Made Properties.

Dutch Made, which makes custom cabinetry, bought operations on the north side of Notestine Road and the west side of Roth. Existing operations are already zones I2 general industrial and with the purchase of the north-side property for growth in the next year or so, it wants all of it to be under I2, said Michelle Wood, county senior land use planner. No opposition had been made to the petition.

• Rezoning 23.04 acres on the west side of the 18700 to 18800 block of Tonkel Road from A1/Agricultural to R1/Single Family Residential for a 46-lot single family residential subdivision across from the former Deer Track Golf Course that is now Deer Hollow and Silver Leaf Estates subdivisions.

• Rezoning 40.1 acres on the south side of the 13200 to 13300 blocks of Bass Road from A1/Agricultural to R1/Single Family Residential for a 106-lot single family residential subdivision that’s a continuation of the existing Grey Hawk subdivision and would be called Grey Hawk Extended. It will have a single entrance at Bass.

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