- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 16, 2016

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Pima County is breaking new ground by deciding to offer its employees six weeks of paid parental leave.

The county Board of Supervisors approved the new benefit with a 3-2 vote Tuesday.

Starting July 1, county workers with newborn children or newly adopted children will be guaranteed six weeks of paid leave at two-thirds of their normal salary so they can bond with their babies. They can use vacation and sick time to make up the other third.

Supervisor Richard Elias said the decision made Pima County the first Arizona county to provide the benefit and the second public entity in the state to adopt a parental leave policy.

Elias was a supporter of the change advocated by a union representing some county workers.

The University of Arizona already has a parental leave program for its faculty and staff members.

County officials worked on the issue for weeks, struggling to find a way to reduce potential costs.

Elias said the benefit will cost taxpayers less than $500,000 a year. Various changes reduce that cost from a projected $1.1 million annually.

County employees currently have had to use sick leave, vacation days, unpaid leave and catastrophic leave to cobble together time off after becoming a parent.

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