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Local small businesses adding paid family leave for employees

The debate over paid family leave played out in the recent presidential campaign, but some Columbus businesses aren't waiting for the government.

As an expectant mom, Peyton Sutton has a lot of worries.

"There are so many question marks. How is this pregnancy going to go? Am I going to continue to be healthy? What's going to happen when I deliver?"

A worry she doesn't have, is whether she'll have to return to work before she's ready.

"Knowing that I'm getting this 12 weeks of paid leave and that I'm warmly welcomed back and completely supported is a complete game-changer."

She works for treetree, a Columbus marketing and advertising agency that offers employees 12 weeks of paid family leave for both mothers and fathers, natural births and adoptions.

"It says, 'I care about you as a whole person. I don't just care about you as an employee. I don't only care about the money you can make for our company, I care about you as a person.' And it makes you want to be a better employee because you care so much about a company who cares about you," said Sutton.

The hospitality industry isn't known for investing long-term in its employees. But at his Wolf's Ridge Brewing downtown, Alan Szuter is working to change that.

"As a business owner that's my job, to make it so they can have that security."

This year he instituted six weeks of paid medical leave for his full-time employees.

"Adding additional costs to a business can make you non-competitive," Szuter said. "But the people we have here are the people who've made the business what it is. And they're a dedicated group, they're committed to our business. We want to try to make it so that they can stay here."

"If you think about how much it costs to recruit and train a new employee, that costs far more than providing this type of benefit," said Heather Whaling, owner of Geben Communication.

She offers her 25 employees 10 weeks of paid parental leave.

"I think it's good for the family. I think it's also good for business. It helps us recruit and retain top talent."

She believes there should be a national standard for paid leave- something business groups, like the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, oppose as being bad for business.

Peyton Sutton says her employer's investment in her, is one she and her family won't forget.

"There is not a doubt in my mind whether I'll come back after my maternity leave," she said. "I wouldn't consider not coming back, and I wouldn't consider working for a company that doesn't show me this care ever again."

At least one person at City Hall agrees.

Columbus City Council member Liz Brown says she's working on a proposal to offer city employees paid parental and family leave.

She plans to introduce her proposal in the next several weeks.