Seattle City Council has voted to continue to expand the paid parental leave and paid family care benefits available to city employees. This latest action is just another step in a series of policy changes that expands these benefits over a series of months. More than 11,000 employees of the city of Seattle will be impacted by these changes.
Paid parental and family leave for Seattle city employees in 2017
Less than two years ago, Seattle became the first city in the Pacific Northwest to offer paid parental leave, granting employees four weeks paid leave upon the addition of a child via birth, adoption, or foster care. It was also one of the first cities in the country to offer such a benefit. Still, Mayor Edward Murray expressed his intention to move a step beyond that policy.
The Seattle Council voted unanimously to support the expansion. Members had already decided through a vote that city employees would be eligible to receive up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave by 2017. This was a part of the original plan to expand paid leave benefits for city employees over time. The council also voted in an additional support last month. Now, city employees will also be eligible to take four weeks of paid leave to care for family members battling with serious health conditions.
Employees need to exercise parental leave options within 12 months of a birth or adoption placement. Paid leave will be available to all employees who have worked for the city for six months or more.
The costs and benefits
Extending paid leave policies does come with a cost. The city will spend an estimated additional $2.6 million a year to cover parental leave up to twelve weeks instead of four. And, the new family-care benefit is expected to cost the city about $436,000 per year. Altogether, this change will cost the city about $3 million per year, but many feel that the program is well worth the cost.
City leaders, and many residents, are proud to find themselves on the cutting edge of such expansions. It’s about more than money, or paid time off. Over the long-term, the benefits could be substantial toward meeting goals like closing the opportunity gap.
“It’s no secret that family-care obligations often fall to women, and particularly women of color,” Councilmember M. Lorena González said in a statement reported by The Seattle Times. “Today we remove institutional barriers to employment opportunities at the city and once again, lead the country by living and practicing our values.”
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