Mayor Ed Murray and Councilmember Jean Godden are pushing a proposal to grant paid time off to Seattle city workers who are new parents.
Seattle city employees who are new parents would get paid time off under a plan announced Monday by Mayor Ed Murray and Councilmember Jean Godden.
Murray and Godden are proposing that all regular city employees with a new child, both women and men, receive up to four weeks of parental leave at their normal wage or salary.
The benefit would become available to an employee six months after he or she is hired. The legislation requires approval by the City Council.
No cities in the Pacific Northwest and only a handful around the country offer paid parental time off, Murray said at a news conference, noting that the U.S. is “the only developed nation in the world without a statutory right to paid parental leave.”
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“Paid parental leave is good for our workers, good for our children and good for our economy,” Godden said in a statement.
“It is an important step towards creating a workplace which supports all employees, especially women,” she added.
Women with paid maternity leave are more likely to retain their jobs, and they earn better pay as they move ahead in their careers, said Godden, who wore a pin with the slogan “No Wage Gap.”
Infants benefit greatly from having a parent at home, and it’s low-income mothers who most often are forced to choose between their jobs and their children, Murray said.
The announcement wasn’t planned to coincide with actress Patricia Arquette’s acceptance speech Sunday night at the Oscars, but it seemed that way.
The “Boyhood” star used her spotlight to advocate for women’s rights. “It’s time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women,” she said.
That moment left Godden “enthused,” she said Monday.
Council President Tim Burgess and Councilmembers Sally Clark, Bruce Harrell and Mike O’Brien took part in the news conference, signaling their support for the legislation.
Murray said there’s no plan, as of yet, for the city to advance legislation mandating paid parental leave in the private sector. If Seattle leads the way on the issue, more private businesses may offer the benefit, he said.
The new benefit could cost the city up to $1.35 million a year, Murray said, but the actual amount would depend greatly on whether city departments would hire replacements for employees taking parental leave.
The estimate assumes the departments would hire temporary workers in every instance.
The council in November allocated $250,000 each in 2015 and 2016 to help pay for a parental-leave benefit.
The new benefit would not affect what city employees already receive: 12 holidays, 12 to 30 vacation days depending on tenure, and up to 96 hours of paid sick leave.
Employees would still be allowed to take up to 90 days of unpaid parental leave, on top of the new benefit.
Murray and Godden said they will work with the labor organizations that represent city employees as they draft the legislation over the next few weeks.
San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; and Austin, Texas, already provide paid parental leave.
San Francisco employees can receive up to 12 weeks. Washington, D.C., workers get up to eight weeks. In Chicago, the limit is six weeks and, in Austin it’s 30 days.
Seattle has nearly 10,000 employees. Reports have shown a persistent gender pay gap among city workers.