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De Blasio Gives Paid Parental Leave to Non-Union City Workers

By Amy Zimmer | December 22, 2015 2:23pm
 Roughly 20,000 city workers will be eligible for the city's new paid parental leave policy. The administration said union workers could be next.
Roughly 20,000 city workers will be eligible for the city's new paid parental leave policy. The administration said union workers could be next.
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MANHATTAN — Starting in January, thousands of city workers will be guaranteed at least six weeks of fully paid parental leave, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday.

Roughly 20,000 managers and non-unionized workers will be eligible for the policy, which covers maternity, paternity, adoption or foster care leave. These workers will also be allowed to combine their time off with existing leave — whether through accrued sick leave and/or accrued vacation — for up to 12 weeks paid leave, officials said.

“Too many new parents face an impossible choice: taking care of their child or getting their paycheck,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement. “New York City is leading by example, putting us at the forefront of paid parental leave policies around the country.”

The move brings New York City’s workers in line with the most generous paid leave policies for municipalities across the country, including Austin and Pittsburgh.

Officials said they can't control the leave policies of unionized workers, as any changes to benefits for represented employees must be done through collective bargaining. But the de Blasio administration is ready to “immediately” enter talks with its municipal unions about extending the policy to their covered employees.

The new benefit will not cost taxpayers any additional money because they plan to rearrange existing raises and vacation time, the city said.

City officials said they did not immediately have the parental leave policies for all unions that work in the city, including the teachers’ union, uniformed workers like police or firefighters, and DC 37’s workers who staff hospitals, do maintenance and clerical work and fix the city’s streets, bridges and parks.

But while some unions have limited maternity coverage, they don’t have anything as comprehensive as the city’s new policy, officials said.

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers said his union is very interested in paid parental leave.

“We have been trying for years to interest various city administrations in expanding parental leave, and finally have a willing partner on an issue that is very important to us,” Mulgrew said. “We look forward to negotiating with the administration for an appropriate way to extend and expand parental benefits for our members.”

Paid parental leave not only helps employees but also employers, studies have shown, since the policy helps reduce turnover.

Many advocates across the city hailed the new policy and said they hope it builds momentum for other sectors to offer similar plans across the city and state.

“This announcement means a major improvement in the quality of life of 20,000 New York families, who will be able to prioritize taking care of their children at that most important phase of life,” said Deborah Axt of the community organizing group Make the Road New York. “We applaud Mayor de Blasio for this historic announcement and hope that, soon, all New Yorkers will have the paid family leave they deserve."

Sadye Campoamor, director of community affairs for the Department of Education, who is 6 months pregnant and has been working in city government for more than five years, said the announcement brought “tremendous relief to our growing family, and means we'll have the opportunity to care for and bond with our new child.”

“The thought of having no pay for three months was terrifying me — between student loans and living expenses I was honestly not sure how we would do it,” she said.

Extending the policy to non-city employees would require federal or state action. The de Blasio administration is pushing for that as well, a mayoral spokeswoman noted.