County employees who take time off work to have a baby now will get six weeks of leave with some pay.

The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to approve the extra benefits, with supervisors Ally Miller and Ray Carroll voting no.

Employees on parental leave will get paid 66 percent of their regular salary. They can use earned vacation time and sick time to make up the other 34 percent.

Supervisor Richard Elías said the benefit will cost taxpayers less than $500,000 a year.

The new benefit will be available July 1.

The proposal — brought to county leaders from the SEIU Arizona Local 48 labor union, which represents some county employees — has been a topic of negotiation since December.

A compromise was reached Tuesday that reduced the cost from a projection of $1.1 million a year.

The union and county leaders agreed to:

  • Give an employee — mothers and fathers alike — six weeks of leave.
  • Limit the availability of leave to within three months of having a baby or adopting.
  • Require a worker to give 30 days notice to human resources.
  • And make the benefit available to employees who have worked for the county for at least a year.

Currently when an average county employee becomes a parent, she or he might take three or four weeks off, using a combination of about seven days of sick leave, three days of vacation time, three days of unpaid leave, and four days from a bank for catastrophic leave time, according to a county report.

The union said the heavy use of unpaid leave showed the need for increased benefits for new parents.

SEIU Arizona Local 48 President Art Mendoza said the compromise is good for employees and for taxpayers. It accomplishes the goal of making sure employees can afford to take leave, he said.

Miller said she opposed the extra benefits because the money could have been used to give overdue pay raises to public safety workers.

She said the county could offer an insurance product similar to short-term disability insurance, allowing employees who want parental leave coverage to pay a premium, since not everyone needs the coverage.

Supervisor Sharon Bronson was a swing vote at the board meeting.

Her concern was how to pay for the extra benefits without raising taxes and in a time when the county hasn’t been able to budget for other types of pay and benefit increases.

The county should take “a comprehensive approach” to pay and benefits packages, she said.

Supervisor Ramón Valadez said he went back and forth on the issue but finally leaned toward approval after his wife showed him an article about the benefits babies and children receive when their parents take leave.

Contact reporter Becky Pallack at bpallack@tucson.com or 573-4346. On Twitter: @BeckyPallack