The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to explore the idea of offering city workers who are new parents four weeks of paid time off to allow them to bond with their children.
“In order to be competitive with the private sector, we need to make sure we provide this sort of benefit to allow young families to be able to come to work and still know they won’t be neglecting their obligations to their children,” said Councilman Paul Krekorian, who pushed for the new benefit.
Krekorian said studying the proposal “is the first step in what will be a long process of analysis, of the considerations of the economics of this, considering the detriment the city faces when we lose good employees because they don’t have the option to take paid leave when they have a family.”
City employees currently have four months of unpaid leave to bond with their children. In order to get paid during that time, some employees use a mixture of accrued paid vacation and sick leave hours, according to city officials.
Krekorian said using benefits designated for other purposes, such as sick leave and vacation, for bonding leave means that those hours would no longer be available for their intended purposes later on, such as when employees do become sick or if they need to take time off due to be a caretaker for an ill family member.
Employee representatives and city workers told the Budget and Finance Committee last month that some workers face resistance from supervisors when trying to use sick leave hours to get compensated for parental bonding time, while newer employees may not have enough paid sick leave accrued to cover parental leave.
Councilwoman Nury Martinez, who co-introduced the motion with Krekorian, told her colleagues she needed to take time off seven years ago when she gave birth to her child. She said she banked sick leave and vacation hours to do so, and her husband was given a month off.
Paid parental leave, Martinez said, would allow city workers to “be able to take the necessary time to bond with their children and then come back to work and feel like it was enough — not feel that guilt that you carry with you almost every day because you wish you can be with your kids, but you have to work and you have to make ends meet.”
The United States is “woefully” behind other developed countries in terms of paid parental leave benefits, according to Krekorian. Employers in European countries like France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Spain, as well as major non-European nations like China, Mexico and Russia, that already provide some form of paid parental leave, he said.
In the United States, private employers like Wal-Mart, Ernst & Young, Bank of America and many tech companies have started to offer “some measure of paid parental leave,” according to Krekorian.
Other municipal employers such as Seattle, San Francisco and Chicago are also starting to look into paid parental time off, he said.
Krekorian and Martinez’s motion instructs the City Administrative Officer and the Chief Legislative Analyst to report back on the “feasibility and budgetary impact” of offering four weeks of paid parental time to new parents.
City officials will also report back on the average amount of time city workers take off for pregnancy and bonding purposes, and the “costs and consequences” of employees potentially getting lured away from the city due to better benefits elsewhere.
The motion was introduced last year after companies like Netflix and Microsoft announced they were going to begin providing enhanced family leave benefits.
— Wire reports