SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – San Francisco on Tuesday became the first city in the nation to guarantee fully paid family leave for workers with new children.
The newly approved ordinance requires employers with at least 20 workers pay employees with new children 45 percent of their salaries for six months starting in 2018. The other 55 percent of worker salaries are covered by the state’s paid family leave program, established in 2004.
“It is surprising and troubling that for a very significant portion of people in our country, people can have or adopt a baby today and have to go back to work tomorrow,” District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, who co-sponsored the ordinance, said.
Only 13 percent of workers in the United States have access to paid family leave through their employers. The United States is the only industrialized nation that has no paid family leave requirements for new parents, according to the nonprofit Family Values @ Work.
California is one of four states, along with New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island that provides at least some form of paid family leave for workers with new children.
“It would be great if the state or federal government stepped up tomorrow, but for now we’ll have to do what we’ve always done and that’s lead,” Wiener said.
Responding to concerns raised by small business owners, Supervisor Aaron Peskin proposed phasing in the new law so that it applies to employers with 50 or more employees starting Jan. 1, 2017. From there, the law would apply to businesses with at least 35 employees on July 1, 2017 and to employers with 20 or more workers on Jan. 1, 2018.
“Going up to 2018 makes sense to give the smaller and medium-sized business more time to address their management issues,” District 1 Supervisor Eric Mar said.
Supervisor David Campos of District 9 disagreed with another change Peskin proposed requiring employees to have worked at least 180 days, instead of 90 days, to qualify for the paid parental leave benefit.
“Doubling the time you have to work to be protected means fewer workers will be covered,” Campos said.
Wiener replied that whether employees must work 90 or 180 days to get the benefit, both requirements are reasonable and shouldn’t make or break the ordinance.
Campos nonetheless voted against Peskin’s amendments – the only supervisor to do so.
If employers deny paid parental leave, the new law allows workers to file complaints with the city’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement. After exhausting remedies with the city’s labor watchdog, employees can seek relief through the courts, Wiener said.
“I think this is crucial for bonding and emotional development of children and babies,” Mar said, adding he wishes such a law existed when his 16-year-old daughter was younger. Mar said he’s now trying to catch up in bonding with his teen daughter.
“Bonding with a teenager is nearly impossible,” District 5 Supervisor London Breed, also president of the board, quipped.
The board unanimously approved the paid family leave ordinance as amended, which applies to all employed parents with new children, whether biological or adopted. It will require a second reading before final approval.
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