With the conviction that pro-family policies are critical for a healthy Church, the Archdiocese of Chicago will soon start offering its employees 12 weeks of paid parental leave.

The policy, which will go into effect June 1, was announced in the archdiocesan newspaper, the Catholic New World.

It will cover both mothers and fathers working at least 26 hours per week who have just had a child or adopted a child.

Previously, women at the archdiocese were able to pay for maternity leave through sick time and vacation days. Employees were allow to accrue sick time, and after about three years generally had enough time accumulated for six weeks of leave.

Even this policy was more generous than that offered by many companies which have a use-it-or-lose-it approach to sick leave and do not allow it to build up year after year.

But the new policy far surpasses the previous one and brings the archdiocese to the forefront of family-friendly policies across the nation — not only within the Church but among the population as a whole. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, only 12 percent of U.S. private sector workers have any amount paid family leave through their employers.

Betsy Bohlen, chief operating officer for the archdiocese, told the Catholic New World that Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich supported the policy as a reflection of Church teaching.

“Obviously we do want to be a voice for pro-life, family friendly kinds of policies,” she said, adding that the archdiocese also believes the policy is “an attractive feature” in attracting strong talent.

Father Peter Wojcik, co-director of parish life and formation for the archdiocese, cited both Pope Francis’ writings on the family and the recent Vatican Synod on the Family — in which Archbishop Cupich participated — as part of the inspiration for the change in policy.

“I think it’s a practical way of saying yes, the families are at the center of the church, the church is built on the families and families need time to be with each other and accompany each other,” he told the Catholic New World.

The archdiocesan paper reported that the new policy originated from the human resources committee and was approved by the finance council and then Archbishop Cupich. The policy could cost the archdiocese as much as $1 million per year, and covers some 200 employees.