Christiana Care announced Sept. 18 a commitment to provide at least 12 weeks of paid parental leave to employees beginning in fiscal 2021, which runs from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021.

The benefit will apply to eligible caregivers — mothers and fathers — for the birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child.

As a Baby Friendly hospital and a national leader in women’s health, delivering more than 6,000 babies each year, Christiana Care has a distinguished history of supporting healthy babies and healthy families.

“We know that the bond formed between mother and child in the first few weeks of life can have a tremendous impact on the health of the baby and the well-being of the family,” said Janice E. Nevin, Christiana Care president and CEO. “We are delighted that we will be able to provide this enhanced parental leave benefit to our caregivers next year.”

Evidence shows that paid parental leave can have significant positive effects on health and economic outcomes throughout the life cycle. It supports breastfeeding, access to care and good nutrition during a critical time, and reduced stress on the mother and family.

Christiana Care is the largest private employer in Delaware with nearly 12,000 employees.

The announcement comes at a time when the state of Delaware has recently implemented a similar benefit for its employees.

“We applaud the state of Delaware for having the vision and courage to take this step for its employees,” said Nevin. “While we understand that paid parental leave is an expensive benefit for employers to offer, we hope that other organizations will consider taking this step to make a positive impact on the health and prosperity of our community.”

Currently, Christiana Care provides a benefits package that includes many flexible leave options for employees, including paid time off, disability leave accounts and optional short-term disability, as well as protected unpaid parental leave in accordance with the Family Medical Leave Act.

This enhanced parental leave benefit is the latest in a series of significant, positive changes for Christiana Care employees. In December 2018, Christiana Care was the first health system in Delaware to increase its minimum wage to $15 an hour. And in January, Christiana Care introduced a community service benefit that offers paid time for caregivers to volunteer at charitable, nonprofit organizations.