Some Thurston County employees will now have the option of bringing their infants to work with them, thanks to a new pilot program recently approved by the county’s Board of Commissioners.

The Infant at Work Program applies to workers at the Public Health and Social Service’s Department on Lilly Road, chosen for its “health-oriented mission and building infrastructure that supports this project,” according to the county.

“This is a huge step forward into the future for Thurston County and is an innovative and exciting project that we are very proud to launch,” said Commission Chair Bud Blake. “We want to support working moms and dads in bonding with their new babies during a precious window of time, while continuing to earn a living wage and advance in their career with us. We are also committed to enhancing our facilities to better support breastfeeding moms.”

Starting this week, employees can bring infants, ages 6 weeks to 6 months, to work. Benefits of the project listed by the county include allowing parents to return to work sooner, helping to reduce the gender pay gap, increased time to breastfeed, decreased childcare costs, and increased employee retention.

Come 2019, the pilot program will be reevaluated and possibly expanded to other departments and offices throughout Thurston County. According to county officials, implementing the program elsewhere may require building or office upgrades, as well as policy updates.

“Our department is the perfect place to pilot this project, because we are all about promoting best practices and policies that improve the health and wellbeing of children and families in our community,” said Schelli Slaughter, the Director of Public Health and Social Services. “This program is a chance for us to lead by example. We hope it will be an inspiration to other organizations to develop similar family support programs in their workplaces.”