Certain King County employees will receive paid parental leave in 2016 under a pilot program approved Monday by the Metropolitan King County Council.
The Metropolitan King County Council approved a one-year pilot program giving paid parental leave to certain county employees with new children.
Eligible employees will be offered up to 12 weeks off at their normal wage or salary, with those 12 weeks including all but one week of their vacation time and all but one week of their sick time.
For example, an employee with three weeks of vacation time and two weeks of sick time could use two weeks of vacation time and one week of sick time to obtain nine weeks of paid parental leave, for a total 12 weeks off.
The benefit, approved Monday, will be available to men and women with a new child in 2016 and will apply to parents both adopting and giving birth.
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New parents are guaranteed paid leave in other developed countries, but not in the United States, where few employers offer the benefit.
Seattle earlier this year became the first city in the Pacific Northwest and one of just a handful in the U.S. to give its employees paid parental leave. New parents who have worked for the city for at least six months now receive up to four weeks.
The City Council last month voted down a proposal by Councilmember Kshama Sawant to set aside $1.5 million for a potential extension of the benefit to 12 weeks.
Councilmember Sally Bagshaw afterward vowed to work with Mayor Ed Murray on a new benefits package for city employees, with 16 weeks of paid parental leave.
The County Council in spring adopted a motion making it county policy to adopt a parental-leave program.
That motion, sponsored by council members Rod Dembowski, Larry Gossett and Jane Hague, requested that County Executive Dow Constantine develop a cost analysis, recommendation and a work plan.
Dembowski said parental leave will give new mothers and fathers “an opportunity to bond with their child without sacrificing the very wages needed to support a family.”
He said the benefit is the right thing to do and is fiscally responsible because it will help the county recruit and retain employees.
“This will lead to healthier babies and healthier employees,” Dembowski said.
The pilot program will cost the county an additional $2.9 million in salaries and benefits in 2016, according to a fiscal note presented to the council. That estimate assumes one-to-one backfill for employees on leave.
Giving county employees 12 weeks of paid parental leave on top of their vacation and sick time would have cost an estimated $1.5 million more, Dembowski said.