By Daniel Beekman
The Seattle City Council voted unanimously Monday to offer city employees up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave, rather than the four weeks they are offered now.
Mayor Ed Murray had asked for the change. It was less than two years ago that the council approved the existing benefit for new parents, making Seattle the first city in the Pacific Northwest and one of the first cities in the country to offer paid parental leave.
Employees will become eligible for 12 weeks after working for the city for six months. The benefit will apply not only to births but also to placements of children into homes through adoption, foster care and legal guardianship.
The leave will need to be used within 12 months of a birth or a placement.
"No person should be forced to choose between their job and caring for their family," Murray said in a statement, urging local businesses "to follow our lead."
Monday's legislation will also give city employees a new benefit -- up to four weeks of paid leave to care for family members with serious health conditions.
The four weeks will be available every 12 months, and employees would need to first use some sick leave and vacation leave.
"It's no secret that family-care obligations often fall to women, and particularly women of color," Councilmember M. Lorena González said in a statement.
"Today we remove institutional barriers to employment opportunities at the city and once again, lead the country by living and practicing our values."
Extending the parental-leave benefit to 12 weeks will cost the city an additional $2.6 million per year, according to the legislation's fiscal note. Offering the new family-care benefit will cost an additional $436,000 per year, for a total of about $3 million.
When Councilmember Kshama Sawant proposed 12 weeks of paid parental leave last year, her proposal was voted down.
Seattle has more than 11,000 employees. Beginning in March, their salaries will be posted on the city's website, according to the mayor's office.
(c)2017 The Seattle Times