New York City workers to get paid family leave


A proposed workers benefit that has been a controversial topic among the private sector in New York is now available for city government workers.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced he will sign an executive order so the city can provide approximately 20,000 employees with paid parental leave. The policy provides six weeks of paid time off for maternity, paternity, adoption and foster care, at 100 percent of salary, or up to 12 weeks when combined with existing leave. de Blasio said the city is also hopeful to enter into talks with its municipal unions about extending the policy to their covered employees.

“Too many new parents face an impossible choice: taking care of their child or getting their paycheck,” de Blasio said. “New York City is leading by example, putting us at the forefront of paid parental leave policies around the country. This is a common sense policy that will make for healthier and more financially stable working families — making it good for employees and employers.”

Paid family leave has been at the forefront of the minds of politicians, employers, employees, business organizations and workers advocacy groups for some time now. The state Assembly passed a family leave bill early in 2015, but the bill did not pass through the state Senate. That bill would have given workers six to 12 weeks of salaried leave to care for a newborn child or a seriously ill relative. Similar laws are already on the books in New Jersey, Rhode Island and California.

Private-sector employees in New York can utilize the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which provides 12 weeks of leave for such situations, but unpaid.

Opponents of the proposed bill say giving employees that much paid time off will negatively affect the bottom line and productivity of businesses, specifically in the small business sector, which accounts for a majority of businesses in New York City.

According to the mayor’s office, though, studies have shown the opposite — that paid parental leave has a positive impact on not just employees but also on employers, helping to reduce turnover while ensuring employees are able to return to work when ready.

When making the announcement of the city’s new bill, the mayor’s office cited a 2014 report from the President’s Council of Economic Advisers that found that more than 90 percent of employers affected by California’s paid leave initiative reported either positive or no noticeable impact on profitability, turnover and morale. Other studies cited by the mayor’s office found families that benefit from paid leave are less likely to receive public assistance, and that the program can “substantially” reduce infant mortality rates and improve a child’s overall health.

“Paid parental leave is an essential support for working families and communities,” said Teresa C. Younger, the president and CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women, a nonprofit foundation that looks to build women’s collective power for social, economic and reproductive justice. “When new parents — women and men — are able to take time to care for their children without losing their jobs or their pay, it benefits families, communities and businesses by ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to contribute and compete regardless of parental status.”

The city’s program will be funded by repurposing the existing managerial raise of 0.47 percent scheduled for July 2017 and two days of vacation leave policy to provide the six weeks of paid parental leave to all managerial and original jurisdiction employees. It will not cost taxpayers any money, officials said.

The six weeks of paid leave will be at full salary and can be combined with existing accrued sick and/or vacation leave, so employees can have a maximum of 12 weeks of maternity, paternity, adoption or foster care leave without losing pay.

New York City joins Austin, Texas, and Pittsburg, Pa., as cities offering paid leave policies.

“This new policy is another clear sign that cities across the country are realizing the value of family-friendly workplace policies,” state Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said. “We need a national paid-leave program that covers all working Americans. I am thrilled that Mayor de Blasio is taking a lead in this important fight by giving thousands of New York City workers extended paid parental leave.”