BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho Gov. Brad Little on Wednesday issued an executive order increasing paid leave for parents in the executive branch to eight weeks.

The Republican governor signed the Families First Act that he says encourages strong families, will help retain employees in state government, and is part of his goal of making the state a place where children will stay and those who have left will choose to return.

“That’s why I’m signing the executive order today that enables families to spend time together in those critical weeks after is a child enters the family,” he said.

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The order applies only to the 25,000 workers in the executive branch over which he has authority. But that’s the largest workforce in Idaho. Little also said he hoped his order encouraged other branches of government to follow his lead.

Right now, state employees can take up to 12 weeks under federal law but are only paid for as long as their vacation and sick pay lasts.

In the last three years, the executive branch has seen about 450 births annually involving an employee or the spouse of an employee.

Little said the executive order would have minimal financial impact on the state because employees who take parental leave would have been paid anyway had they not taken the leave.

State employees generally earn less than their counterparts in private industry. But Little is seeking a 2% pay increase for them this year that, he said, with the extended paid parental leave could help retain workers.

“Particularly given the fact that we have an older state workforce, and we need to be successful in recruiting a young workforce and young families, we think this is really going to help us be competitive,” Little said.

April Arnzen, senior vice-president for human resources at Micron, which has 37,000 employees globally and a big presence in Boise, spoke at the signing ceremony.

“The state of Idaho is on the forefront of supporting a family-friendly environment,” she said, noting 98% of tech companies offer employees paid parental leave as part of an effort to hold onto workers. “For those of us who have led teams or owned our own businesses, we know the cost of turnover is high.”

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