(Reuters) - Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday proposed giving six weeks of paid parental leave to all state employees after the birth or adoption of a child, which if approved would make Minnesota only the fourth U.S. state with such a policy.
If the legislature approves, Minnesota would join California, New Jersey and Rhode Island in having paid family leave, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
All 35,000 Minnesota state employees would be eligible for the benefit, which would amount to an average of $6,200 in wages workers would receive instead of having to take unpaid leave. About 500 new parents would use the benefit every year, according to the governor's office.
"Six weeks of paid parental leave should be guaranteed for all hard-working Minnesotans; not just the wealthy few," said Dayton, a Democrat. "It is time for the state to lead by example."
Some of Minnesota's largest employers provide employees with paid parental leave, including the Mayo Clinic, U.S. Bank and Target. Dayton made the announcement during an appearance with U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, who said that he and President Barack Obama will continue to call for a federal paid leave policy.
The state legislature next convenes on March 8. The House is controlled by Republicans, while the Senate is majority Democrat. State Rep. Sarah Anderson, a leading Republican on state government finance, could not immediately be reached for comment.
The federal Family Medical Leave Act provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn or adopted child, or to care for a family member or to one's own serious health problem. The law applies to private employers with 50 or more employees.
(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by James Dalgleish)