Seattle city employees who are new parents will get up to four weeks of paid time off under legislation approved Monday by the City Council. Mayor Ed Murry is expected to sign the legislation.
Seattle city employees who are new parents will get up to four weeks of paid time off at their normal wage or salary under legislation approved Monday by the City Council.
The council voted unanimously to provide the new benefit, which will be available to both men and women who have worked for the city for at least six months.
Mayor Ed Murray and Councilmember Jean Godden proposed the legislation in February. It will take effect 30 days after Murray signs it, which he might do this week.
The action makes Seattle the first city in the Pacific Northwest and one of just a handful of cities around the country to offer paid parental leave to its own employees.
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“This is the right thing to do and makes Seattle a national leader for families and for women,” Godden said.
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act mandates 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave for all eligible public- and private-sector workers, but many aren’t eligible.
In February, Murray noted that the United States is “the only developed nation in the world without a statutory right to paid parental leave.”
“It is my hope that other public and private employers will recognize the importance of this policy and follow suit,” Murray said.
Several city workers testified in support of the legislation Monday, telling the council they shouldn’t need to choose between bonding with their child and paying their bills.
The benefit will apply to parents who have given birth, taken in a foster child or adopted a child 18 years old or younger. Parents will be allowed to take their leave within the first year of the child’s joining their families.
Godden said paid parental leave will help Seattle retain its workers and compete for talent with other employers.
She said the benefit also should help the city narrow its “gender-pay gap” — the difference between the amount male and female employees earn — because women often lose ground when they have children.
Earlier this month, Murray released a new study showing that the average annual salary for women in Seattle government is 89.9 percent of the average male salary. The study also found that 22 percent of female city employees are employed part time, while only 12 percent of men are.
The new benefit could cost the city up to $1.35 million a year, Murray said in February, warning that the actual amount will depend greatly on whether city departments would hire replacements for employees taking parental leave.
The $1.35 million 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 the benefit.
Councilmember Kshama Sawant said Monday she hopes the council will next consider legislation mandating paid parental leave in the private sector. Sawant also said she hopes Seattle will ultimately extend its benefit to 12 weeks.
That’s the amount of leave that King County government workers may get. A Metropolitan King County Council committee unanimously recommended approval last month of proposed legislation that would require the county to offer at least 12 weeks.
The bill sponsored by Councilmember Rod Dembowski, which the council likely will vote on later this month, would ask King County Executive Dow Constantine to provide a report by Sept. 15 estimating how much the benefit would cost and save the county.
The proposed legislation would allow the council to reconsider the duration of the benefit if Constantine’s report were to name a cost of much more than $4.5 million.
The bill would mandate that the leave be offered by Jan. 1, 2016.
“We picked 12 weeks because that’s what all the science says is about the right amount of time,” Dembowski said.
Seattle’s new legislation won’t 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 still will be allowed to take up to 90 days of unpaid parental leave.
San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; and Austin, Texas; already provide paid parental leave. San Francisco employees can receive up to 12 weeks off.
Seattle has nearly 10,000 employees. King County has more than 13,000.