Delaware this week became the sixth state to offer paid parental leave to its state employees.

The new law, signed by Gov. John Carney June 30, offers 12 weeks of paid maternity or paternity leave to full-time workers who have been with the state for at least one year of employment. Teachers also are entitled to the new benefit. It will go into effect for Delaware workers on April 1, 2019, and is estimated to cost the state $4 million annually.

Carney said the new benefit aims to help the state “maintain and strengthen its workforce” and attract new employees. It’s also simply the right thing to do, he said.

“Our state employees deserve to spend time with their families when their children are born. It builds strong bonds and has great health advantages,” he said.

Saundra Ross Johnson, secretary of the Delaware Department of Human Resources, agrees. “Paid parental leave,” she says, “delivers a competitive edge for attracting, recruiting and retaining talented employees as they recognize that Delaware cares and values families.”

Delaware joins five other states that have a paid maternal or paternal leave mandate in place for its state workers. The others are California, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Meanwhile, employers increasingly are zeroing in on paid parental leave benefits in an effort to boost their work-life balance equation and better serve their millennial workers.

The number of employers offering paid parental leave increased significantly between 2016 and 2018 for every type of parental leave, according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual benefits survey, released last month. The percentage of employers offering paid maternity leave increased from 26% in 2016 to 35% in 2018, and paid paternity leave increased from 21% to 29% over the same period. Meanwhile, adoption (20% to 28%), foster child (13% to 21%) and surrogacy (6% to 12%) leave also increased in the last two years.

See also: 15 employee benefits on the rise

The number of large employers offering paid parental leave programs has increased as well: Dollar General, TD Bank and Unum are among the companies that added parental leave benefits for employees over the last year, while IBM, TIAA and Walmart are among those that expanded their programs.

Meanwhile, other companies have updated their parental leave programs to be gender-neutral. For example, Estee Lauder in May announced 20 weeks of paid leave for all parents, while giving birth parents an additional six to eight weeks of paid leave. Broadridge Financial Solutions, a fintech company with about 10,000 employees in 16 countries, also updated its parental leave benefits earlier this year to include all parents. Previously, the company offered nine weeks of fully paid leave to birth mothers through a disability program.

“It’s turning into a candidate-driven market, so employers are offering incredibly competitive benefits,” explains Trent Burner, SHRM’s vice president of research. “Employees, particularly millennials, are calling out for unique benefits that help with work-life balance, and more employers are listening by increasing their paid parental leave programs.”

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