City of Portland adds paid parental leave policy

FritzPdFamLeaveEffective January 1, 2016, all City of Portland employees who have been employed by the City for at least six months will be eligible to take up to six weeks of fully paid parental leave when they welcome a new baby or child into their families (by birth, adoption, or foster care). The city’s policy will make it possible for all employees to afford this important time in their family’s life.

City Councilor Amanda Fritz brought this policy forward and the vote among her council colleagues was unanimous.

I am very pleased to have introduced this important new policy for our city’s employees as they grow their families. The research clearly shows that paid family leave has significant benefits for both families and employers, and here at the City we care about both. We want to attract and retain the best talent and providing paid family leave is a key way to do that. It is my sincere hope that by taking this step forward other Portland employers and ultimately our state and nation will follow suit with strong paid family leave policies. Because every parent deserves this, not just city employees.

 While our workforce and family configurations have changed dramatically, our nation’s labor standards have not been updated in decades. The United States is unique in its refusal to guarantee paid family leave; it is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t mandate paid maternity leave. Nationwide, only about 10 percent of all workers have access to paid family leave that includes time off for caregiving. And recent research shows that a shocking 25% of new mothers return to work within two weeks of giving birth, which falls far short of the time needed to recover from birth, establish breastfeeding, and bond with a new child.[1]

There are sensible policies that would assist families while simultaneously helping employers’ bottom lines, but both employers and policymakers have been slow to recognize how fundamentally our lives have changed and what needs to be done to make our workplace policies match the way that we live and work today.

Both the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) require unpaid leave for some, but not nearly all, new parents. The result is an inequitable start for families across Oregon, with lower-wage parents struggling the most when a new child enters the family because they cannot afford to miss many, if any, paychecks.

Family Forward Oregon Executive Director Andrea Paluso sees this new policy as a real positive for county employees and a reminder that every Oregonian needs paid family leave:

Family Forward Oregon applauds the Portland City Council for providing six weeks of fully paid parental leave to their employees. The truth is, without paid parental leave very few new parents can afford to be away from work during this incredibly important time in their family’s lives. Ultimately, we need a statewide paid family and medical leave program that makes it possible for every Oregonian to afford the time it takes to fulfill our family caregiving responsibilities. How we choose to support families in our public and workplace policies is one of the biggest challenges we face as a state. This is a great start!

Read about it in The Oregonian.

 

[1] http://inthesetimes.com/article/18151/the-real-war-on-families

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