A First for U.S. Cities: San Francisco Mandates Fully-Paid Parental Leave

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The city's new law puts it in step with family friendly policies in most developed countries, as well as in many developing nations.

Parents in San Francisco will soon enjoy six weeks of fully paid parental leave to care for a new child. The leave policy covers all new parents, including same-sex couples, who have or adopt a child.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a new law mandating six weeks of fully paid parental leave, The New York Times reports. The measure is a first for a U.S. city. The United States and Papua New Guinea are the only two countries out of 185 analyzed by the International Labour Organization that fail to provide paid parental leave for new parents.

Scott Wiener, the San Francisco lawmaker who introduced the parental leave ordinance, said the Board of Supervisors opted to consider the measure at least partly because federal lawmakers have failed to address it.

“Whether it’s paid parental leave, infrastructure investment, minimum wage, paid sick leave or addressing carbon emissions, we know the states have to act,” Wiener said in an interview before the vote.

California is just one of just three states – including New Jersey and Rhode Island – that offer paid parental leave for workers. New parents in California receive 55 percent of their normal pay for six weeks after the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for a sick family member, according to CNN Money. Those wages are paid out of an employee-funded state insurance program.

The new San Francisco law requires that employers cover the remainder of a new parent’s full pay during those six weeks.

Proponents of the law say it’s necessary in San Francisco because the city’s cost of living and competitive job market pose significant challenges for workers who want to spend time with their new baby, but simply can’t afford to lose income.

Here is what else you should know about the new San Francisco parental leave policy:

  • Eligibility: The parental leave mandate applies to new parents who work at least eight hours a week and spend a minimum of 40 percent of their work week in San Francisco.
  • Timeline: The new ordinance goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2017, for employers who have 50 or more employees, according to the Associated Press. Businesses with 35 to 49 workers must comply with the measure by July 2017. Small businesses with 20 to 34 workers have until January 2018 to comply. Employers with fewer than 20 employees are exempt from the law, CNN Money reports.

It’s also noteworthy that the state of California recently approved a measure to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022.

Tech companies – including Amazon, Spotify, Facebook, Etsy and, most recently, Twitter — have been at the forefront in offering their workers generous parental leave policies.

Kudos to you, San Francisco. Here’s hoping that other cities and states take note of your family friendly work policies and push to implement them across the country.

What is your employer’s parental leave policy? What do you think about San Francisco’s new parental leave ordinance? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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