Thurston County Public Health and Social Services will welcome infants to workplace
OLYMPIA – On Tuesday, September 18, the Thurston County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a one-year, pilot Infant at Work project at the Public Health and Social Service’s (PHSS) Department on Lilly Road. Employees will have the opportunity to bring infants aged six weeks to six months to work beginning this week. PHSS was chosen as the department for the pilot because it has a health-oriented mission and building infrastructure that supports this project.
The County Commissioners will evaluate the results of the pilot in 2019, with the goal of determining lessons learned, for possible expansion to other Thurston County departments and offices. In order to offer this benefit across County departments and offices, it may require infrastructure updates to County buildings to ensure safety for the infant, parent or guardian, and County employees, as well as updating policies to determine eligible positions. Some positions may not be eligible due to their job duties.
“This is a huge step forward into the future for Thurston County and is an innovative and exciting project that we are very proud to launch,” said Commission Chair, Bud Blake. “We want to support working moms and dads in bonding with their new babies during a precious window of time, while continuing to earn a living wage and advance in their career with us. We are also committed to enhancing our facilities to better support breastfeeding moms.”
Research shows that Infant at Work programs get parents back to work sooner, reducing the gender pay gap, and increases the duration of breastfeeding, which has life-time health benefits for mothers and children. Other benefits include decreased healthcare and childcare costs as well as increased employee economic benefits, productivity, retention, attendance, and morale. Infant at Work policies have been successfully adopted and implemented by many local public health jurisdictions, non-profits, private businesses, and Washington State government agencies, including the Washington State Department of Health.
Schelli Slaughter, the Director of Public Health and Social Services added, “Our department is the perfect place to pilot this project because we are all about promoting best practices and policies that improve the health and wellbeing of children and families in our community. This program is a chance for us to lead by example. We hope it will be an inspiration to other organizations to develop similar family support programs in their workplaces.”