San Francisco became the first U.S. city Tuesday to require businesses to provide fully paid leave for new parents. The announcement comes on the heels of the state of New York approving up to 12 weeks of paid time off for new parents.
The Los Angeles Times reported that under S.F.’s new initiative — which still needs to be signed into law by the city’s mayor — companies with at least 20 employees must offer new moms and dads of birth or adoptive children six weeks off to bond with their child. The city’s Board of Supervisors approved the initiative unanimously.
“The vast majority of workers in this country have little or no access to paid parental leave, and that needs to change,” Supervisor Scott Wiener, who pushed the measure, said at a news conference before the vote.
California’s current legislation allows workers to receive 55 percent of pay for up to six weeks through a state insurance program funded by workers. But supporters of the S.F. move say that for low-income workers, 55 percent of their pay isn’t near enough to live on. The new law will require employers in the city to make up the other 45 percent of their workers’ pay.
The measure will be fully phased in by January 2018, starting in January 2017 with businesses that employ at least 50 people.
While many small-business owners did speak out against the measure, the law received fairly widespread support. Some have pointed to the influence of Silicon Valley tech giants’ recent trend of enacting generous parental leave policies. The Bay Area Council, a business-sponsored group whose members include Google and Facebook, actively supported the measure.
“Paid parental leave increases the probability that employees will return to work, be more productive and earn higher wages,” Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, told the Times. “That is good for business and for families.”
Of course, the U.S. still has a long way to go before it matches other industrialized nations in terms of paid leave for health or family reasons. For more on paid family leave policies in the U.S., see Next City writer Oscar Perry Abello’s January breakdown of what’s happening in more of the nation’s largest cities.
Kelsey E. Thomas is Next City’s associate editor.