KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — In an effort to help recruit and retain talented workers, Knox County officials have announced a new paid leave policy for new parents that applies to births and adoptions. The new paid maternity leave employment policy is applicable to those eligible for Family Medical Leave Act or FMLA.

The new policy gives compensation to eligible employees for up to eight weeks at their full, regular rate of pay. If both new parents are employed with the county, they can either split the time with four weeks each, or give the full eight weeks to one of the parents.

“This policy change is an investment in the health and well-being of our workforce,” said Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs. “That, in turn, will offer significantly better outcomes for productivity and performance, reduce absenteeism, and decrease burnout and turnover. It’s a great way to support the people already working here and be more competitive in the recruitment of new team members.”

The county’s previous paid parental leave had granted a maximum of 16 weeks – unpaid – with the first 12 weeks falling under FMLA and the final four weeks falling under the Tennessee Maternity and Adoption Care Leave Law.

During that unpaid time, accrued sick and annual leave could be used if available, but many employees ended up on unpaid leave for the majority of their time off as new parents, according to the county.

“This is important time for new parents to bond with an infant or the adopted/placed foster child, adjust to changing family dynamics, and get the appropriate follow-up medical care, while minimizing the financial impact,” Stephanie Candler, the Senior Director of Human Resources and Benefits Department, said in a news release.

Candler also notes that numerous studies surrounding maternity/paternity leave tout the positive impacts of paid leave including improvements in maternal and child health outcomes, higher likelihood of seeking and receiving medical care postpartum, lower instances of postpartum depression and anxiety, improved child brain development, increased family bonding and healthier family dynamics, as well as greater financial security and stability. In the private sector, it has been proven to increase profit margins.

The United States is the only wealthy nation that doesn’t guarantee paid leave for new parents – including mothers after they have given birth or adopted a child. In a study published last year of 21,000 people, 82% of the American participants think employees should be able to take paid maternity leave, including for adoption.

Nexstar’s The Conversation contributed to this report.