By Corinne Murdock |
At the start of this month, Phoenix City Council unanimously approved up to 480 hours of paid parental leave, the equivalent of 12 weeks and costing an estimated $2 to $8 million annually. The benefit kicks in for births, adoptions, and foster care placements during 12-month periods.
The new benefit requires that employees meet Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) eligibility requirements: be employed by the city for at least 12 months and have performed at least 1,250 hours of work during the 12 month period preceding the leave. The city’s leave would run concurrently with FMLA leave, unless the FMLA entitlement was exhausted when caring for an immediate family member with a serious health condition or being unable to work due to a serious health condition.
The added benefit, which the city boasted was “among the most generous parental leave packages offered by any local government agency,” will kick in on October 1.
Mayor Kate Gallego expressed her enthusiasm for the new policy. She recalled her efforts years ago to implement a similar policy when lobbying for equal pay for women.
“It has taken quite a long time to figure out how to pay for this generous benefit financially,” said Gallego. “May this lead to healthier, happier babies.”
Councilwoman Yassamin Ansari equated caring for live children with abortion. She said that this policy reflected on the importance of family planning in light of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that abortion law should be left up to the states — the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
“I think it’s especially fitting that we have this policy now, given that reproductive rights are under attack as well. We need to be doing everything in our power to protect Phoenicians’ ability to continue to make their own family planning decisions,” said Ansari.
Councilman Sal DiCiccio rebutted Ansari’s view of the policy’s impact, noting that this was support for the decision to choose life — not just an affirmation of one type of family planning that included abortion.
“For those of us on the pro-life side, we really need to start evaluating how and what type of programs we’re going to be supporting going forward,” said DiCiccio. “If we’re going to be seeing more adoptions, more foster care, then we’ve got to be stepping it up ourselves, too.”
Councilman Carlos Garcia expressed hope that this policy would just be the beginning of family care benefits. He mentioned childcare and housing benefits.
Councilwoman Ann O’Brien recounted how, 27 years ago, her husband first received two weeks of parental leave but she received none from her employer at the time. O’Brien added that paid leave would help mitigate the city’s employee shortage by offering a competitive benefit.
Councilwoman Betty Guardado said that 12 weeks was necessary for parental bonding time.
“Spending time with your child without losing your income should be a right for all working people in this country,” said Guardado.
Last year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data reported that 26 percent of state and local government workers across the country had access to paid parental leave. In 2008, that number was 15 percent; it reached 17 and then dropped to 16 percent by 2012. It wasn’t until 2017 that the percentage increased by nearly 10 points to 25 percent. The last period of growth occurred in 2020 to the present total, 26 percent.
BLS data reports that 23 percent of private and civilian industry workers had access to paid family leave in 2021.
Watch the Phoenix City Council discussion and vote on paid family leave below: