City of Seattle to enhance paid family leave benefits

The City of Seattle is to extend its paid parental leave policy to up to 12 weeks and introduce four weeks of paid family leave.

Members of staff who have been employed by the city for at least six months will automatically receive eight weeks of paid parental leave to care for a newborn or a child placed for adoption, foster care or legal guardianship. Four extra weeks of leave will also be available to employees depending on the amount of holiday and sick leave remaining to them.

The leave, which was previously set at four weeks, must be used within 12 months of the birth or placement of the child.

The City of Seattle will also introduce four weeks of paid family leave so that eligible employees can care for sick family members who have a serious health condition over a 12-month period. Qualifying family members include employees’ parents, spouses or domestic partners and children, or the children or parents of employees’ spouses or domestic partners.

Employees must have the serious health condition of the family member certified by a healthcare provider, and must draw down their sick leave to a minimum of two weeks and holiday leave to one week to receive this benefit.

The enhanced paid parental leave policy and the paid family leave policy will be implemented retroactively from 1 January 2017.

The legislation encompassing these changes will be signed into law on Friday 17 February 2017.

The new benefits form part of the City of Seattle’s Workforce Equity Strategic Plan, which was established to promote greater workplace equality, remove institutional barriers facing current and potential employees, and enhance parental and family care policies for staff.

In addition, the City of Seattle will publish employees’ salaries on its website from March 2017, to increase wage transparency and help close the gender and racial pay gap.

Ed Murray, mayor of Seattle, said: “No person should be forced to choose between their job and caring for their family. These measures ensure city employees will no longer be forced to take unpaid leave to care for ageing parents, and new mums will have access to more paid leave to welcome and care for a child. These are steps in the right direction and I urge private businesses to follow our lead in creating a fairer workplace for people of colour, women and working families.”

Council member M. Lorena Gonzalez, who was also involved in enacting the new leave policies, added: “It’s no secret that family-care obligations often fall to women, and particularly women of colour. With paid family and parental leave policies [getting] to the heart of racial and gender equity, we remove institutional barriers to employment opportunities at the city and once again, lead the country by living and practising our values.”