TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Effective immediately, eligible employees working for Travis County can take up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave.
Travis County commissioners approved the program extension Tuesday. The vote came after commissioners received the first annual report on the county’s paid parental leave policy, established in May 2022 under an initial eight-week model.
The county’s paid parental leave program is available to eligible employees “to bond and care for a child after the birth, adoption, or foster-to-adopt placement,” per county documents. Under the initial implementation, the PPL program provided 320 hours, or eight weeks, of paid leave within a 12-month period. A prorated version was made available for part-time, eligible employees, as well.
The PPL program was available for use “within the 12 months from the Parental Event date” and was available for one continuous use period, per county documents.
From May 3, 2022 through May 31, 2023, 120 county employees utilized the program. The Travis County Sheriff’s Office, Juvenile Probation and Transportation & Natural Resources departments accounted for the highest uses, with 47, 10 and eight employees utilizing the PPL program from each of those respective departments.
Between June 1, 2023 and May 31, 2024, county officials anticipated an estimate of 154 county employees will utilize paid parental leave.
The average age of the user was nearly 34 years old, with the average employee using the PPL program having nearly seven years of service within the county. The average salary for those using the PPL program was reported at $68,520, per county documents.
County officials said the PPL program was designed to help facilitate a family-friendly workforce environment while also minimizing turnover rates.
Through July 31, the 2023 calendar year had a reported 6.44% turnover rate among Travis County employees. That marked the lowest turnover rate in data collected from 2017 through mid-2023, with the 2022 calendar year accounting for the highest reported turnover rate of 12.87%.
Commissioner Brigid Shea said while other factors might have led to 2023’s lower turnover rate, programs like the county’s PPL one help to incentivize employees to remain with their employer while encouraging a better work-life balance.
Initially, commissioners considered implementing a 10-week policy for fiscal year 2023-24 (beginning Oct. 1) and then enacting a 12-week policy in FY25. Under county estimates, the costs of lost productivity and backfill for a 10-week plan was nearly $4.2 million, while a 12-week PPL program would amount to just over $4.8 million in lost productivity and backfill.
Still, county officials said Tuesday the PPL program was a continued priority for the county, especially as surrounding city and state departments enacted similar plans. Officials stressed the importance of Travis County having a competitive PPL program compared to both surrounding municipalities and businesses within the private sector.
“Many of us want to have families, and we want to be in a place where we feel like expanding our family is not going to hurt our career,” Commissioner Jeff Travillion said in a press conference following the court’s vote Tuesday.