By Bill Parry
Queens lawmakers are welcoming the news that all non-union city employees will receive six weeks of paid parental leave for maternity, paternity, adoption and foster care at 100 percent salary beginning in 2016, thanks to an executive order from Mayor Bill de Blasio. The new terms will apply to more than 20,000 managers and staffers as of Jan. 1.
“Too many 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.”
Combined with existing sick and vacation leave, some employees will be eligible for 12 weeks, total. Under current policy, new parents must use paid sick days to compensate for missed time during pregnancy or after the birth of a child.
“With Mayor de Blasio’s action bringing paid parental leave to city workers, the city of New York joins more than 163 countries in providing paid leave to women for childbirth, adoption or foster care,” U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) said. “Unfortunately, the federal government is tied for last with Papua New Guinea. It’s really shocking to think that the strongest economy in the world cannot bring itself to provide the paid parental leave that families desperately need.”
Maloney introduced the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act last year. She is still working to build support for the bill, but there has been no action as of yet.
“This is not only wrong, it’s bad for our economy,” Maloney said. “Smart paid leave policies improve employee retention, boost productivity and more.”
Studies have found that 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, officials say.
The mayor’s executive order was well received among the borough’s elected officials.
“The arrival of a child is one of the most important milestones in any person’s life, and the first few weeks are critical as the family bonds and learns how to manage their new relationship,” City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D-East Elmhurst) said. Having a parental leave policy that supports New York City families as they grow demonstrates at its core what our mayor and this city value.”
Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans), the chairman of the Committee on Civil Service and Labor, called the announcement a victory for working families.
“The installment of paid paternal leave for 20,000 municipal employees sets a higher standard of dignity as we seek to craft a more progressive and compassionate city,” he said. “All New Yorkers deserve to carry out their familial responsibilities without risking financial jeopardy.”
The new benefit will come at no cost to city taxpayers, estimated to be about $15 million annually, by taking back two vacation days. The city will also redact a planned 0.47 percent raise planned for non-union managerial workers for July 2017.
The new policy does not extend to the city’s 300,000 union employees. Any changes to their existing contracts must be negotiated through collective bargaining.
Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), a new father of his first child, said too many parents are forced to leave their child in someone else’s care to they can rush back to work.
“Mothers and fathers across the city can now take a breath after the long nine-month journey of pregnancy and begin to care for the newest member of their family with a lot less stress and a lot more sleep,” Richards said. “I hope to see more cities across the country follow the lead of New York City.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr