San Francisco becomes the first City in the country to provide full wage replacement for workers taking leave to bond with child
San Francisco – (April 5, 2016) Today the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed Supervisor Scott Wiener’s legislation making San Francisco the first City in the country to require fully paid parental leave for workers.
Under current California law, employees taking parental leave receive up to 55% of their wages for six weeks through state disability. Supervisor Wiener’s ordinance requires that employers pay their employees the remaining balance of their income (45%), so that for up to six weeks of leave the employee will receive his or her full wages. The legislation applies to both parents and to both births and adoptions.
“Our country’s parental leave policies are woefully behind the rest of the world, and today San Francisco has taken the lead in pushing for better family leave policies for our workers,” said Supervisor Wiener. “We shouldn’t be forcing new mothers and fathers to choose between spending precious bonding time with their children and putting food on the table. I’m proud San Francisco is once again taking the lead in putting our workers and our families first."
Supervisor Wiener's legislation applies to employers with 20 or more employees, and to employees who work 8 hours a week or more. If an employer provides benefits that equal or exceed this requirement, the ordinance would not apply. The legislation is structured so that if the State program's contribution increases, the employer contribution automatically decreases. Currently, a state bill is now sitting on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk – Assembly Bill 908, authored by Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez - which will increase the state payment to 70 percent for low-wage workers and 60 percent for others.
The legislation is supported by Planned Parenthood, the California Work & Family Coalition, Equal Rights Advocates, the Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center, and The Opportunity Institute. It has received support from the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women and the Youth Commission.
“This legislation will make Paid Family Leave a more realistic option for low-income parents, who typically can’t afford to bring in just half of their pay, as provided by California’s leave program,” said Julia Parish, Staff Attorney at Legal Aid Society- Employment Center. “It will help improve the health of children and parents, and it will increase gender equity by encouraging both parents to take leave.”
The Bay Area Council, which is a public advocacy organization for businesses within the 9 county Bay Area, has endorsed the legislation.
“Policies that promote gender equity are essential to a strong Bay Area economy,’ said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Our members recognize that while the addition of paid parental leave will come at a short-term expense to employers, it will yield a long-term financial and societal benefits. Changes to improve gender equity will require changes in what we do, and this is one of them. Paid parental leave increases the probability that employees will return to work, be more productive, and earn higher wages. That is good for business and for families.’
Nationally, only 12 % of workers have access to paid family leave through their employers, and only half of first-time mothers take any paid leave. California is one of three states, which provides some basic level of leave (New Jersey and Rhode Island are the others.) New York has just signed a new law into place, which will put that state on this list.
California’s current Paid Family Leave program, under state disability, grants 6 weeks of paid family leave at 55% wage replacement. This program has proven a success on a number of levels, including:
- Mothers who use the program are more likely to initiate breastfeeding and to continue breastfeeding for approximately twice as long as mothers who do not use the program
- Doubled the average length of leave taken by new mothers from three weeks to between six and seven weeks. The greatest gains are among mothers with lower levels of education, unmarried mothers, Latina mothers and African American mothers
- Men who take two or more weeks off after the birth of a child are more involved than fathers who take no leave in the direct care of their children nine months later.
- 83 percent of workers in lower-level jobs who used the program returned to their previous employer – a 10-point improvement compared to workers who did not use the program
- Paid leave increases worker productivity, improves loyalty and morale.