But do we really believe that? Are we making the investments to show that we support workers and their families?

North Dakota is utterly deficient in the important area of ​​family paid vacation. About 11,000 babies are born in the state each year, creating a constant need for childcare. An estimated 62,000 North Dakotans serve as carers.

What are we doing as a state to help these families? Very little.

There are no government efforts to provide paid family vacations. In the absence of a government role, only 12% of companies offer maternity leave. Paternity leave is even rarer – only 6% of companies offer paternity leave.

Many workers in North Dakota do not have access to sick leave – which works against us in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic when we ask sick people to stay away from work to stop the spread of the highly contagious virus.

We can and should do better. Indeed, it’s good for business.

Enlightened companies that offer paid family vacation benefits improve work ethic. This, in turn, improves recruitment, retention, and productivity – and is good for the bottom line through higher profitability.

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We have to remember that we live in a very mobile society. People move to find better opportunities. We live in a time when hunting qualified resume and certificate holders is more important than hunting chimneys.

A bill before North Dakota legislature would make it voluntary for companies to offer paid family vacation benefits. Freelance “gig” workers could also choose to do this by paying 6 cents out of $ 10 each to the fund. Someone who makes $ 50,000 would pay $ 300 a year.

Any employee participating in the program can take up to 12 weeks of paid vacation, which allows for up to 66% of their weekly salary with a cap of $ 1,000 per week.

To encourage companies to participate, the proposal provides a 20% tax credit for an employee’s employer contributions, which would cost the state an estimated $ 5 million per biennium.

It’s a creative suggestion – but we are suspicious of sponsoring a voluntary program ourselves when many companies are forced to lay off workers while struggling to survive amid the pandemic.

However, the proposal deserves further scrutiny and should be the centerpiece of a preliminary legislative study that will seriously examine what the state can do to improve its business climate in terms of employee recruitment and retention. The workforce is always at the forefront of business concerns

Companies that have implemented paid family vacation programs find them a valuable tool for attracting and retaining workers.

The catch is that they are expensive. What do the participating companies cost? Is there a bigger, more holistic role for the state in workforce development? What specific strategic steps can North Dakota take to become a beacon for workers? With a balance of $ 7.9 billion, can the Legacy Fund help make this happen?

These are the questions North Dakota leaders must ask as we strive to make our state a better place to work and live. We can pay well for infrastructure, but we cannot forget the importance of human capital and we have to be willing to invest in people.

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