SAN Francisco has become the first municipality in the United States to mandate that businesses provide workers who are new parents with six weeks of fully-paid parental leave.
“Our country’s parental leave policies are woefully behind the rest of the world, and today San Francisco has taken the lead in pushing for better family leave policies for our workers,” Supervisor Scott Wiener, who supported the bill, said Tuesday, April 5, according to USA Today.
The city board of supervisors and city council on Tuesday, April 5, unanimously passed the measure requiring employers to offer new parents paid leave.
The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not require paid parental leave, and California is one among only five states in the nation with a form of paid parental leave. It entitles employees to six weeks of partially paid leave – 55 percent of their salary – to care for newborns, as well as adopted and foster children. The time off is paid for by a state insurance program funded by workers.
“The vast majority of workers in this country have little or no access to paid parental leave, and that needs to change,” Wiener said at a news conference before the vote, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
Under San Francisco’s new ordinance, businesses with 50 or more employees will be required to pay the remaining 45 percent of their salaries for a six-week leave beginning Jan. 1, 2017. Employers with 35 to 49 workers have until July 2017 to comply. For those with 20 or more workers, the law will apply starting Jan. 1, 2018.
Businesses with fewer than 20 employees will be exempt from the law. The ordinance further makes it illegal to terminate an employee after taking parental leave, whereas California’s program doesn’t guarantee a worker’s old job when they return from leave.
“Paid parental leave increases the probability that employees will return to work, be more productive and earn higher wages. That is good for business and families,” said Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, according to the AP.
Last week, New York also signed a similar measure into law that requires employers to provide 12 weeks of paid time off, though the program will initially offer 50 percent of an employee’s salary and will be phased in until it fully begins in 2021.
While labor groups have touted the legislation in San Francisco and New York, others have noted that other developed countries offer expectant and new mothers at least 12 weeks of paid leave; in Australia, they receive 18 weeks, 39 weeks in the UK and 480 days for parents in Sweden.
Also criticizing the requirement are small business owners who say the current list of city mandates unfairly targets them.
“They don’t necessarily have the resources, they can’t absorb the increases in cost, and they feel like it’s kind of relentless, it’s one thing after the next,” said Dee Dee Workman, vice president of public policy at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, according to the Associated Press.
Despite critics, Wiener said he’s confident other cities and states will take notice of what is happening in San Francisco.
“[Every time] San Francisco adopts a local pro-worker ordinance, we’re told that it’s going to be the end of the world for businesses,” Wiener said, according to The Guardian. “What ends up happening is the state and sometimes the federal government follows our lead …”
Another ordinance the city approved for workers was a $15 hourly minimum wage or workers, which passed in 2014. On Monday, April 4, the governors of New York and California signed off on legislation raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
Among supporters of paid parental leave include tech companies Google and Facebook. Others like eBay and Spotify provide employees six months of fully-paid parental leave, while Netflix announced unlimited parental leave for the first year after a child is born.
Vicki Shabo, vice-president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, praised local San Francisco leaders for supporting the measure.
“There’s a growing consensus that the nation must do something to address this,” she said, according to The Guardian. (Agnes Constante / AJPress)