A progressive new proposal could promise weeks of paid parental and family leave for city employees.
A plan proposed Wednesday by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and the majority of the City Council means that city employees could see considerable time off to spend with newborns or sick family members, a move that coincides with a nationwide conversation on paid leave.
The plan would: extend the city’s four-week paid parental leave to eight weeks; give city workers four weeks of paid family leave; and reorganize and provide additional training within the city’s human-resources department.
Councilmember M. Lorena González, who will sponsor the plan, said it is the council’s way of tackling a national issue. The United States is one of only three countries that doesn’t guarantee some form of paid parental leave.
“This is, once again, Seattle stepping into an area we believe we can be progressive leaders,” González said.
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Seattle approved its current four-week plan just last year.
The proposal, which could cost about $2.9 million, grew out of a recommendation from the city’s “Workforce Equity Strategic Plan.” The City Council hopes to consider it in August.
Jeff Reading, a spokesman for the mayor’s office, said there were many interviews and surveys with city employees taken into account.
“We are taking steps to improve equity in access to city employment for potential new hires, and in the career development of our existing employees,” Murray said in a statement. “And, we want to ensure that all city employees can afford to be there when their families need them the most, whether it’s welcoming a new child into the family or caring for an ailing family member.”
The eight- and four-week leaves are a minimum. Combined with vacation and sick days, city employees could get an average of 16 weeks for parental leave and 14 weeks for family leave.
González said that she hopes to set an example for private companies.
“This is a model for us to pursue in the private sector and I think that by leading on it and walking our own walk, we are sending a clear message to private sector that we hold ourselves to a high standard,” she said.
Though it’s still early days, González said she’s confident that this plan will become a reality.
“I expect that we will continue to have discussion and make sure that we are able to pass this legislation,” she said. “But it’s pretty clear that there’s a significant amount of support in City Council to move forward with this proposal.”