Today, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors looks likely to make that city the first in the United States to require private businesses to help pay for their employees' paid parental leave.
Currently, California pays 55 percent of a new parent’s salary for six weeks of bonding time, and Supervisor Scott Wiener’s legislation, introduced in January, would require businesses in the city that employ at least 20 people to pay the remaining 45 percent. Wiener’s legislation would apply to bonding time for all new parents, including fathers, those who’ve adopted, lesbian partners and those who have babies through surrogacy.
UPDATE: They did it.
While advocates praise the move, businesses in San Francisco are worried about the costs of implementing the law. A city report estimated it would cost employers $15.8 million to $32.3 million a year. Still, the Chronicle reports the law's passage today is "nearly certain."
Our region is behind California on this issue, but momentum is building. In Seattle, city employees get four weeks of paid leave. King County employees get 12, but are required to use all but one week of their vacation and sick time before accessing parental leave. Private sector workers in the region get nothing unless their employer voluntarily offers family leave. Washington state once passed a law mandating family leave, but it was quickly shelved during the recession when the state couldn't find a way to pay for it. Now, the state government is using a federal grant to design a new program that would benefit all workers statewide. It's unclear when the state will have a plan or what it will look like, but it could follow the employee-funded insurance model in place in California.
In Seattle, Council Member Lorena González has laid out a seven-month-long schedule for figuring out how to expand paid leave in Seattle. It's unclear whether she plans to improve leave for city workers, create something for private workers citywide, or both. She has scheduled presentations throughout the spring and summer from leaders in cities and states that offer various types of paid leave. Draft legislation is expected by August.