San Francisco Approves Paid Parental Leave: Sets Equality Precedent For Rest Of U.S.

San Francisco has become the first U.S. city to approve fully paid parental leave for all new parents: male, female, single or same sex— every parent in San Francisco is now entitled to six weeks of paid leave to bond with their baby. It was by a unanimous vote that the policy-makers of San Francisco approved Paid Parental Leave, a move spurred by a correlating policy change in New York which mandates 12 weeks of partially paid parental leave. San Francisco set an equality precedent for the rest of the U.S. when it approved the non-discriminatory policy: one that has the potential to close the gender pay gap and expel remnants of socio-cultural stigmas surrounding non-traditional family units.

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While California already has one of the more generous parental leave policies in the country – entitling parents to 55 percent of their wages for up to six weeks – the new law mandates that San Francisco employers offer all parents fully paid leave during that time, according to USA Today.

“The San Francisco ordinance would require businesses with more than 20 employees to plug that gap by paying the remaining 45% of their employees’ wages,” reads their report. “It applies to parents of either genders and to both full- and part-time employees who work in [San Francisco].”

Author of the approved San Francisco paid parental leave bill Scott Wiener greets a father and his six month old son after the vote. (Photo by Jeff Chiu/AP)
Author of the approved San Francisco paid parental leave bill Scott Wiener greets a father and son after the vote. (Photo by Jeff Chiu/AP)

The fact that San Francisco has approved paid parental leave could also see progress in closing socio-economic gaps that force lower income earners back to work before they are ready.

In a statement after the vote, the bill’s author, San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener, explained that U.S. law is “woefully behind” the rest of the world in this regard, and San Francisco has taken an important step in the right direction towards equality. Low-wage workers in San Francisco and the world over are least likely to have access to paid parental leave, and most likely to be unable to cope with a pay cut in addition to expenses associated with a new baby.

“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,” said Wiener.

San Francisco approved paid parental leave so that parents won't be forced back to work before they are ready. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)
San Francisco approved paid parental leave so that parents won't be forced back to work before they are ready. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Wiener’s assertion is verified by data gathered by the California Work & Family Coalition after the original paid parental leave bill was approved in 2004, which found that high-income earners were more likely to take advantage of paid family leave. CWFC Director Jenya Cassidy reiterated that the new San Francisco laws made parental leave more accessible to parents, equitably.

“How do we make it more accessible and more equitable for lower-income workers? We’re hoping something like this would go a long way towards bridging that gap,” she told USA Today about San Francisco’s new paid parental leave policy.

According to ABC News, now that San Francisco has approved paid parental leave, the regulations will be rolled out in stages beginning early next year.

“San Francisco businesses with at least 50 employees must comply starting in January 2017 for new parents who spend at least 40 percent of their work week within San Francisco boundaries,” said their report. “Businesses with at least 20 employees have until January 2018 to comply.”

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Paid parental leave is approved for same-sex couples in the U.K., and even in Australia – where same-sex marriage is not yet legal – any de facto couple is entitled to 12 weeks’ paid at minimum wage. So, while San Francisco has approved paid parental leave policy and set a precedent for the rest of the U.S., the policy is still globally behind. Regardless – policy changes like this landmark one approved in San Francisco are a necessary beginning to a widespread shift.

[Image by Nito/Shutterstock]