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Paid Paternal Leave Now Offered at Duluth Area Family YMCA


The Duluth Area Family YMCA has found a new way to further equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) while also retaining and attracting employees through making paid paternal leave available to staff.

The move comes at a time when companies large and small are cutting the benefit, according to the Wall Street Journal. For example, Disney-owned streamer Hulu recently reduced its fully paid parental-leave from 20 weeks to eight weeks.

But Sara Cole, the president and CEO of Duluth Area Family YMCA, said the decision is not only the right choice, but more organizations should be offering similar programs.

“This has really been on my mind for a long time,” said Cole. “We are really committed to equity in all its forms. This is something that will help parents stay in the workforce. This made sense on all levels. We spent valuable time doing research on best practices. That allowed us to create the best policy we could.”

Process and Implementation

As part of the policy, full-time employees of any sex who have been at the Y longer than two years are eligible for six weeks leave in connection with the birth of the employee’s child, the placement of a child with the employee for adoption and the placement of a child with the employee for non-temporary foster care.

Cole said before officially offering paid paternal leave, leadership conducted considerable research both within and outside of the Y. This included looking at other organizations providing the benefit, and leadership also worked with a local attorney to ensure their program would comply with local and Minnesota state laws.

Paid Paternal Leave

Image courtesy of the Duluth Area Family YMCA.

“We have a great HR team we worked with during this process, and our board members were great champions for it,” said Cole. “The research is in. This works. EDI is something we like to think is at the center of what we do, and this policy touches on all three.”

Such studies can be found in The New York Times where Nathaniel Pepper reported paternity leave provides lasting benefits, not only to relationships between fathers and their children, but also to mothers and to relationships between the parents.

While employees are off on leave, Cole added their position would not be rehired, and the rest of the staff would be aptly prepared to manage the workload in their place.

Community Feedback and Benefits

The benefit started being offered earlier this summer, and Cole said the first employee to use it recently began their leave. Overall, she said her staff has had an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the change.

“It was really wonderful to launch it. I think folks are really excited,” said Cole. “A high percentage of women leave the workforce because there is a lack of childcare. For folks who want to come back into the workforce, I hope this makes them feel less pressure. We wanted this program to be as inclusive as possible. We want folks to feel like they have all the time they need.”

In fact, Cole said several other Y’s have already contacted them to ask about the structure of their paid paternity leave program. She said any monetary worries organizations have toward the benefit are unnecessary.

“There is a much more minimum financial impact than companies think there will be,” said Cole. “It’s well worth it when it comes to retaining and attracting talent. It benefits our business greatly. We have some tremendous employees that help us grow and enable us to have this.”

Cole added any other organizations are free to connect with the Duluth Area Family YMCA for more information on the program. She can be reached by email at scole@duluthymca.org or by phone at 218.722.4745 X 104.


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John Reecer

John Reecer is an assistant editor at Peake Media.

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