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Earlier this week, Governor Holcomb made a big announcement about paid parental leave. Beginning in January 2018, full-time state employees who become parents — either through birth or adoption — can take up to four weeks of paid parental leave.

Half-time employees get two weeks.

“Indiana is committed to ensuring that Hoosiers are provided opportunities to succeed in both the workplace and with their families and further seeks to ensure that pursuing a career and caring for one’s family is complementary, not contradictory,” Holcomb’s executive order reads.

It's a smart move. As the Indiana Institute for Working Families’ report on paid family leave notes, this not only benefits families but is a powerful tool to retain and improve morale among employees.

Reducing employee turnover can save an employer lost productivity, advertising and training costs that add up to much more than four weeks’ worth of paid leave. Plus, paid parental leave has significant health benefits, including reduced infant mortality, reduced postpartum depression, increased breastfeeding and increased completion of well-child visits. It incentivizes and supports adoption.

Paid parental leave is absolutely a win-win.

Perhaps predictably, the announcement was greeted with both praise and comments like, “Nice start. Now let’s talk about extending this to all Hoosier parents.”

It’s a benefit not many of them have. In spite of splashy announcements from tech companies and even our own Indiana University, only about 15 percent of the workforce has access to paid family leave. At first blush, going from covering 30,000 full-time state employees to a total workforce of about 3 million seems like a heavy lift.

What would that really take?

The answer: less than you probably think. In January 2018, New York State will begin offering eight weeks of paid family leave to all workers, public and private (increasing to 12 weeks by 2021). Family leave covers not only new parents, but workers who need to care for critically ill kids, dying spouses, returning veterans or aging parents.

It will be funded through a 0.126 percent payroll deduction up to a cap. So if you make $800/week, you will pitch in $1. The maximum contribution is $1.65/week.

If Indiana wanted to offer four weeks of paid leave, then cover all types of care giving — not just new parents — the most we might expect Hoosier workers to contribute is $.82 per week. This is less than the average Hoosier motorist pays for the gas tax our state increased last year.

And what would we get as a result? Healthier families, better-cared-for veterans, the ability to hold a dying loved one’s hand and perhaps many other benefits.

There is no more important investment we Hoosiers can make than supporting families at birth, illness and death.

So I echo the sentiments of fellow commenters on the governor’s executive order: Nice start. Now let’s talk about extending this to all Hoosiers.

Erin Macey is a policy analyst for the Indiana Institute for Working Families. The opinions are the writer's.

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