San Francisco Becomes the First US City to Require Fully Paid Leave for New Parents

By Denisse Moreno
Denisse Moreno
Denisse Moreno
April 6, 2016 Updated: April 12, 2016

San Francisco became the first city in the country to offer full paid parental leave. The law requires businesses to give new parents six weeks of fully paid time off.

The Board of Supervisors approved the new law unanimously on April 5. 

Previously, only a few government and private sector workers had the ability to take paid time off when having children.

“The vast majority of workers in this country have little or no access to paid parental leave, and that needs to change,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener, before the vote.

The measure still has to go through another formal vote by the board next week and will have to be approved by the city’s mayor, Ed Lee, who says he’s happy to sign it into effect.

But not everyone is excited about the new benefit parents will receive.

Small business owners claimed that the new law is not easy for them, and that other laws like sick leave and health coverage are unfairly targeting them.

“They don’t necessarily have the resources, they can’t absorb the increases in cost, and they feel like it’s kind of relentless, it’s one thing after the next,” said Dee Dee Workman, vice president of public policy at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

California currently lets employees receive 55 percent of their pay for up to six weeks to bond with their child—the money comes from a state insurance program funded by workers. The new measure in San Francisco will require employers of businesses with at least 20 workers to make up the rest.

The new bill will affect businesses of 50 workers and up from January 2017, while businesses with 35 to 49 workers must abide by the new law in July 2017, and businesses with 20 to 34 workers have until January 2018.

Paid parental leave increases the probability that employees will return to work …
— Jim Wunderman, Bay Area Council

“Paid parental leave increases the probability that employees will return to work, be more productive, and earn higher wages,” said Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, one of the sponsors of the bill.

“That is good for business and for families,” he added.

Tech giants like Google and Facebook supported the bill.

Meanwhile, Twitter announced on April 5 that from May 1 it will allow 20 weeks of fully paid time off for any employees who is a new parent and who works in the U.S. Overseas employees will get the benefit from July 1.

Compared to other nations, the United States is far behind when it comes to parental leave. It is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t require paid leave.

Federal law currently allows workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey provide partial parental leave pay, with the money coming from employees, while lawmakers in New York recently approved up to 12 weeks of partial pay.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Denisse Moreno
Denisse Moreno