I often describe myself as Brooklyn born, Southern raised. I loved spending my younger years in a city that was so diverse and rich with culture, but what really influenced my path was becoming a military kid, albeit reluctantly. When I was in the third grade my mother joined the United States Army. At the time I could only see that decision as an inconvenience to my 8-year old world, a feeling that only grew as we began to move about every two years further and further into the Deep South.
Viewing entries tagged
Thank you, Chairman Mendelson. I would like to thank you for scheduling and holding this hearing today and for your thoughtful approach to constructing a witness list that will allow us to hear diverse perspectives on the “Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015.”
At this point, we are all aware that as introduced, Bill 21-415, “The Universal Paid Leave Act” will establish a fund that will enable workers in the District of Columbia to receive up to 16 weeks of paid leave for a major life event such as birth or adoption of a child, caring for a sick family member, or for self-care. The fund will be supported by payments from employers, the self-employed, and certain individual employees.
Since I became a Councilmember, I have been exploring ways to support our working families. In 2014, I introduced legislation that was later incorporated in the Budget Support Act that allowed for D.C. government employees to be eligible for 8 weeks paid leave. At that time, I made the promise to continue the work started on paid leave and to study how we could expand this policy to all workers in the District of Columbia.
As Chairperson of the Committee on Education, I believe that investing in our families will benefit the lives of all of our residents and our city’s children. This bill will help workers take the time they need to support their families or themselves without having to make the hard choice between a pay check and their loved one’s immediate needs. Study after study has shown that forms of paid leave are good for children, parents, and the elderly.
The long-term effects of this bill are good for our businesses. It will increase a person’s likelihood to return to work after a qualifying event, therefore decreasing the costs associated with employee turnover. It will make the District of Columbia a city where people want to work and live, and it will give all of our businesses a competitive edge for offering progressive benefits packages at a lower cost than they can now.
Prior to introduction and since, I have met or spoken directly with the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Trade, the Hospital Association, the Restaurant Association, the Hotel Association, Georgetown University, Trinity College, small business owners, union leaders, and individuals to review all of the variables of the legislation. In these meetings, the conversations have been thoughtful, and open from all parties to find ways that we can explore to make this legislation possible for as many employees as we can and with low cost burdens to our employers.
During the drafting process, my staff and I worked to model the implications of such a robust program to provide for our families and residents. We looked at tax numbers, employee numbers, and the preliminary findings of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research which has been studying our current paid leave policies in the D.C. Government. I understand the desire of constituents and business leaders to have more sophisticated models and deeper sets of numbers, but the fact is that pulling, analyzing, and compiling this data is technical and complicated and it is not until legislation is introduced that we can set the wheels in motion for sound research.
As written, the bill has over ten variables that if adjusted would lower the cost of the bill or the burdens on employers or residents. In our conversations about the proposed legislation, I have heard many of the concerns and believe there are shifts that can be made and we are analyzing all of them closely.
As the bill moves through the hearing process at the Council, I am working closely with our Chief Financial Officer, the Council budget office, Chairman Mendelson, businesses, and advocates to fill out the details of what options we have for providing the best amount of paid family and medical leave for the maximum number of D.C residents, while ensuring that we are covering low income workers who are least likely to have access to any form of paid leave.
Today, we start the public conversation about the proposed bill and the variables that are problematic for some or are supported by others. The hearing process is one that is essential for having an open and transparent conversation, so that we can speak frankly and have our positions placed on the record. This is the beginning of an engaging process with all parties; it may take time and at times we may not agree, but I do believe that in the end, we will have a working program that our city can be proud of and D.C. can continue being a national policy leader.
It is important to note that I am not naïve and have not taken up this proposal lightly. It was not quickly drafted or without serious thought. I knew two years ago that this process would not be easy. With serious thought come reservations about the consequences – both intended and unintended – for everyone this bill will affect. Frankly, the consequences that matter the most to me are the ones primarily affecting our residents: the infants who are born prematurely, the mothers forced back to work two weeks postpartum, and the sick or injured elderly parents with little to no access to quality care.
I do not take the effects this bill will have on businesses lightly and that is why we are here today, asking you how we can be industry leaders and make systematic changes to the way we treat the people who work in the District of Columbia.
Yes, I have heard some of you say “we are moving fast and we are getting ahead of the rest of the nation on paid leave” and to that I ask: are we really moving that quickly or are we actually way behind? Why should we not lead on policies that support businesses, expand industries and also allow working families to care for themselves and their loved ones?
With that, I want to thank everyone who is here today or is submitting testimony for the record. I appreciate the time that you have all taken, regardless of your position on the bill, to study it and provide us with your feedback.
I look forward to the testimony and engaging in a robust dialogue with the witnesses.
Business groups representing just about every industry in the District — from hotels and restaurants to retailers and builders — strongly criticized a proposed paid-leave bill during a D.C. Council hearing on Wednesday, but struggled to offer alternatives or possible changes to the measure when pressed by legislators.
The groups said the bill — which would offer virtually all D.C. workers up to 16 weeks of paid family leave, with the costs covered by a per-employer tax on employers — would dramatically increase operating costs for local businesses, many of which would stop hiring or leave the city altogether.
"This bill would kill D.C. jobs," said Harry Wingo of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce. "This would revive D.C.’s reputation as a high-tax, business-unfriendly place," offered Charles Miller of the Federal City Council. “At the end of the day, you can’t take leave from a job you don’t have or doesn’t exist," warned Cailey Locklair Tolle of the Maryland Retailers Association.
Others worried about the potential for abuse, criticized the lack of specifics on how much the measure could cost different businesses and organizations, and said that D.C. would be jumping far ahead of the three states that currently offer paid leave — both in how much time is given and who would pay for it.
But the consistent drumbeat of criticisms drew pointed questions from Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who pressed the groups to offer alternatives to the bill — or outline specific changes they would want seen to make the bill more agreeable.
In one particularly animated exchange, he asked Wingo a series of questions about whether the business community could support the overall concept of paid leave for workers. "Do you agree that benefits are beneficial to employees? Is it best for employers if they pay no benefits to their employees?"
Mendelson's questioning seemed to reflect the political reality surrounding the bill, which was introduced in October. With a majority of the Council already supporting the measure — and polling showing it has drawn wide support from residents — he said earlier this week that whether the bill passes isn't the question, but rather what would be included in a final version.
As currently written, the bill would require all private employers to contribute to a fund from which leave benefits would be paid. Workers making up to $52,000 a year would have their full salary covered, while those making more would see a declining percentage of everything above the $52,000 covered. The top pay-out would be $3,000 per week.
"This bill is for people who have to make heartbreaking choices," said Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large). She said it would help people take time to care for newborns or ailing relatives, some of whom currently have no paid leave at all.
But in moving towards that goal, Council member David Grosso (I-At Large) — who with Silverman introduced the bill — said the sweeping measure wasn't set in stone. "As written, the bill has 10 variables that would lower the costs on businesses," he said, offering critics a chance to offer changes.
And some business leaders did. Jim Dinegar of the Greater Washington Board of Trade said he would want the issue addressed at the federal level, to avoid creating a regional imbalance where one jurisdiction would offer paid leave while others didn't.
Kathy Hollinger of the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington said leave should be limited to workers who have been on the job for at least one year, and asked that provisions requiring employers to notify their workers of paid-leave rights be simplified.
And Steve Hoffman, who owns a local insurance company that has operated in the city since 1906, asked that the leave be cut to eight weeks — and that it be paid for in part by the employee taking the leave. Without some changes, he worried the increased costs would force him to move — or close.
"We've always felt the need to stay and pay back a city that has given us so much," he said. "But if the [bill] passes in its present form, we will have to consider leaving the District because we compete against not only D.C. agents, but also agents across the country."
It was concerns like those that prompted Mendelson to ask proponents of the bill — who largely spoke in personal terms about the bill — to address the costs of implementing paid leave.
"There is a cost to this," he said to a panel of advocates for the bill. "There's no question [paid leave] would help children, families and low-income folks. It could change a whole lot of social problems we have. That's not the issue. I need you to speak to the cost."
"We have to wait until we get the actual calculations of what it would cost to provide this benefit," said Ed Lazere of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, speaking to a reality that hung over the hearing throughout the day — no final calculations on the bill's costs have been produced, nor has a study funded by the U.S. Labor Department on a number of paid-leave proposals for D.C. been finalized.
But even without those specifics in place, Lazere pushed back on the argument that it would drive businesses to close or into the surrounding states.
"After raising the minimum wage, they don't tend to lose employees, they don't tend to move. Businesses are flexible, they can respond to the added costs through a variety of means," he said.
Proponents also said that the bill could actually serve to help small businesses that can't currently afford to offer any leave, and pointed out that more and more large businesses are instituting paid-leave policies as a means to attract and retain top talent.
At one point, Silverman noted that Wingo of the Chamber of Commerce once worked for Google, which recently implemented an 18-week paid-leave policy. She also pointed out that Miller of the Federal City Council doubles as a senior attorney at Covington and Burling, a powerhouse legal firm that also offers 18 weeks of paid leave.
That raised another concern on the bill — what happens with businesses and organizations that already offer paid leave? John Cavanaugh, speaking on behalf of the Consortium of Universities, noted that the city's 10 universities were extremely concerned with how the measure would affect the leave they already offer.
"The consortium strongly supports the concept of paid leave, and has several types of paid leave in effect as evidence," he said. "The consortium opposes the unfunded mandate that will cost institutions in the District $15 million per year to implement a one-size-fits-all program that may not address the needs of our employees."
The diverse groups that could be affected by the paid-leave bill will have a chance to continue weighing in over the next few months, as Mendelson has said he will call at least two more hearings before any further action is taken on the proposal.
And despite uncertainty over what form the bill could ultimately take, Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) — who supports the measure — said that even having the debate is a positive step forward.
"I doubt the legislation will emerge in same form, but it starts the conversation," she said. "It’s a conversation that’s long overdue."
Hearing on B21-0039, “Military Installation Public Charter School Amendment Act of 2015” and B21-0428, “School Choice for Military Families Amendment Act of 2015”
Councilmember David Grosso announces the scheduling of a public hearing of the Committee on Education on B21-0039, “Military Installation Public Charter School Amendment Act of 2016” and B21-0428, “School Choice for Military Families Amendment Act of 2015.” The hearing will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, October 29, 2015 in Hearing Room 123 of the John A. Wilson Building.
For Immediate Release
October 6, 2015
Contact: Darby Hickey
Grosso Introduces Universal Paid Leave Legislation
Washington, D.C.--Today, Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015, along with Councilmembers Silverman, Allen, Nadeau, May, McDuffie, and Cheh. This legislation, which would give 16 weeks paid leave to all workers in D.C., follows Grosso’s success last year to give D.C. government employees 8 weeks of paid family medical leave.
“As a country we lag behind the rest of the world on family leave—we need pro-family policies that encourage care taking and nurturing,” said Grosso. “The Universal Paid Leave Act will support our D.C. workers and families, while giving our local businesses a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining highly qualified employees.”
The bill, which Grosso co-wrote with Councilmember Silverman, would allow any employee in D.C., or any D.C. resident employed outside of the city, to access a government-run fund that would pay for up to 16 weeks of leave for a qualifying event. Qualifying events include a baby born or adopted, or major medical operations for the worker or a family member. The bill’s definition of family and major events are inclusive of the diversity of D.C.’s workers and families, including low-income workers, single-parent households, caregiving for non-child family members, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, and more.
“In D.C. we have been a leader on paid sick days, on raising the minimum wage, and providing paid family leave for government employees,” said Councilmember Silverman. “With this legislation, we once again position D.C. as a national leader on policies that bolster our families, workers, and employers.”
“I am very supportive of this legislation", said Michael Visser of Flying Fish Coffee and Tea. "As a small business, the proposed program would allow me to support paid family leave that I otherwise could not afford, not only for my own employees, but employees throughout the city."
Research shows that paid leave for either parent after the birth or adoption of a child has a significant positive outcome for the child’s future academic success. After California and New Jersey enacted paid leave programs, employers stated that the new law had a positive effect on employee retention, productivity, and profitability. Read more about the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015 below.
To read a copy of the bill, click here.
The Universal Paid Leave Act creates a system for District of Columbia workers to receive up to 16 weeks of paid leave for a major life event such as birth or adoption of a child or caring for a sick or injured family member or for self-care. District of Columbia employers would pay into a city managed fund on a per-employee basis estimated to be less than 1% of the payroll.
Who takes: Any person working in the district for 50% or more of the preceding year for any covered employer. Self-employed individuals can pay in and be covered; private residents will pay in for themselves and be covered. DC Government Employees would continue to get their salary during paid leaves, rather than being part of this system, but the number of weeks of leave would be raised from 8 to 16 and add their own serious health conditions as a reason for taking leave. D.C. residents who work for the federal government or an employer outside of D.C. will pay into the fund individually, as will self-employed D.C. residents.
How much does the employee get? Up to 16 weeks for a qualifying event. Wage replacement is Benefits would equal 100% of average weekly wages up to $1,000 a week and then 50% of average earnings above that amount, up to a maximum benefit of $3,000 a week.
Who pays: Covered employer means any individual, partnership, general contractor, subcontractor, association, corporation, business trust, or any person or group of persons acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee, but shall not include the United States or the District of Columbia.
How much does the employer pay? A scaled percentage of their employee’s wage for that pay roll period (less than 1% of the annualized salary before taxes).
What is a qualifying event?
- Qualifying event means one of the following:
- The birth of a child of the employee;
- The legal placement of a child with the employee (such as through adoption, guardianship, or foster care);
- The placement with the employee of a child for whom the employee permanently assumes and discharges parental responsibilities; or
- Care for a family member or personal serious health condition
- Family member means
- A person to whom the employee is related by blood, legal custody, domestic partnership, or marriage;
- A foster child;
- A child who lives with the employee and for whom the employee permanently assumes and discharges parental responsibility; or
- A person with whom the employee shares or has shared, within the last year, a mutual residence and with whom the employee maintains a committed relationship.
- Personal Care for a "Serious health condition" – this definition is expansive and inclusive so that our LGBTQ population can access leave for procedures that require hospitalization or managed care. The Bill contains inclusive definition of serious health conditions, caregiving, needs for military families, and other reasons for long-term paid leave.
Is the person’s job protected? D.C. Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) currently protects many employees from termination or other forms of retaliation for taking a leave (which would typically be unpaid, but could include vacation or sick days as a part). Currently, the D.C. FMLA applies to, Businesses with 20 or more employees in the District; and Employees who have worked for the same employer more than a year and worked 1,000 or more hours in the year leading up to their leave request. The legislation would make only modest changes to job protections under the DC FMLA. It would decrease the hours and month requirement for eligibility for job protection, leave the small business exemption in place, and amends the definitions of “family” and “serious health condition” to match those in other laws.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (link)
1. Why does D.C. need the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015?
The Universal Paid Leave Act would allow workers to care for themselves and their loved ones when major life events arise. Paid family medical leave helps families and workers to be healthier and happier. For businesses, the legislation allows them to retain talented and dedicated employees, while avoiding the high costs and lengthy processes associated with staff turnover and on-boarding. A robust paid family and medical leave program will give D.C. employers a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining highly qualified workers.
2. What would this legislation mean for employees?
The bill would cover up to 16 weeks of paid leave annually for a qualifying event (family bonding or personal/family medical issues). 100% of an employee’s wages will be replaced for the first $1,000 of her or his average weekly salary and then 50% thereafter up to $3,000 a week.
Example: Your annual salary is $50,000. You are a new father and want to take time off to be with your adopted child. You elect to take off 8 weeks and qualify to take leave after applying and having your eligibility verified. Your average weekly salary is $961, so you will receive that full amount for the entire 8 weeks.
3. Who is covered by the proposed legislation?
All District of Columbia employees are eligible for paid family medical leave if they are residents of the city or spend more than 50% of their time working for an employer in the city. Employees are eligible to receive payments from the family medical leave fund at the start of employment. However, employees are only eligible for job protection after six months or 500 hours of work in a 12-month period.
4. What are the responsibilities of an employer?
An employer pays a percentage (estimated 1% or less) from payroll for each employee into the government managed family medical leave fund. The fund administrators will be required to verify and process claims and will then pay the employees directly. The fund administrators would also handle any related investigations or appeals.
5. How will the proposed legislation be funded?
The Universal Paid Leave Act creates a city-managed fund financed by an employer-based cost-sharing model. Similar to Unemployment Insurance, all D.C. employers (except the federal and local government) will pay up to 1% of payroll into the fund. This fund would be administered by the D.C. government—keeping the burden off of employers—and the fund size will have a maximum limit.
6. What is the difference between paid sick days and paid family medical leave?
Paid family medical leave is different than paid sick days. It would be used only for birth or adoption of a child, or for a major medical event. The estimated average cost per employee paid by the employer will be $385 annually and that amount will cover the employee for up to 16 weeks of paid leave—far less than paying directly out of pocket which will give businesses the opportunity to offer competitive benefits packages.
7. Is the employer required to hold the employee’s job during leave?
Yes, the D.C. Family Medical Leave Act standards provide 16 weeks of job protection that is unpaid. The Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015 proposes to extend job protection to employees who have worked for 6 months or 500 hours in a 12 month period.
8. What if all the staff at a small business take leave at the same time?
We do not underestimate the effects that long-term leave has on businesses, but this is unlikely to be a problem—nationally only 13% of workers take family medical leave annually. The bill aims to enable workers to take the time they need to care for themselves or family members when the situation arises and then return to work at full capacity. The ability to retain talented and dedicated employees, and avoid the high costs and lengthy processes associated with staff turnover, makes paid family medical leave good business, no matter a business’ size.
8. What if I reverse commute or my employer is not mandated to pay into this fund?
If your employer is not required to pay into the fund, then you, as a resident, will pay into the system on your own behalf thereby enabling you to receive benefits when you become a parent or personal or family medical situations arise. If you are a self-employed individual then you are automatically enrolled in the system to pay into the fund and receive the benefit.
9. What other jurisdictions have paid leave?
New Jersey (2008), California (2002), and Rhode Island (2013) have income tax-based family leave and temporary disability insurance policies that cannot be implemented in D.C. because of federal Home Rule restrictions on taxing income. We have, however, learned from the strengths and challenges with these programs and have incorporated their best practices into the D.C. legislation. Globally, the United States lags behind other countries that all offer some form of paid leave for their citizens.
By Anne Robinson
In March, we published a blog post on the Fair Leave Act of 2014, introduced by Councilmember Grosso. The legislation provided D.C. government employees up to six weeks of paid leave in connection with the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child, or the care of a family member who has a serious medical condition. During this time, conversation was sparked across the country about the need for men to be more supported as fathers and policies that encourage women to stay in the workplace. This was an area where D.C. could lead.
When the Mayor released his proposed FY2015 budget to the Council in April, we were pleased to read that he included language for a six week maternity or paternity leave for D.C. government employees. This was a follow through on the promise he made during the State of the District speech in February and similar to the language in the Fair Leave Act, but the issue of a fiscal impact was still unclear.
Throughout the budget process, we worked diligently with Chairman Kenyan McDuffie of the Committee on Government Operations and were successful in amending the Mayor’s Budget Support Act language to: expand the language to be for the care of any family member; increase the amount of time from six weeks to eight weeks; and to cite all references and definitions to the D.C. Family Medical Leave Act (DC FMLA) for consistency (see the bottom of this post for the language).
The eight weeks of paid family leave policy for a qualifying District government employee will go into effect on October 1, 2014. The Department of Human Resources (DCHR) is currently working on issuing a bulletin to each agency’s Human Resources advisors to inform them of the law and the leave certification process. They are hopeful that it will be issued by mid-September, at which point employees can submit an application for the benefit for leave occurring on or after October 1. DCHR is also working on a draft rulemaking that will be open for a 30 day comment period in late fall. The eight weeks of paid leave will count against the allotted 16 weeks in a 24 month period of unpaid leave that is currently given under the D.C. FMLA. The bill has no fiscal impact because employees’ salaries are already allocated for on an annual basis, therefore this leave time will not require any extra funding.
The paid family leave beginning on October 1 is a major step for the District of Columbia and we will eagerly track the implementation process and the success of this initiative. Our work is not done until we can expand this benefit to all of our families in the District working outside of government employment.
As we began our research and collaboration with advocacy groups, it became clear that identifying a funding structure to provide paid family leave without creating a new source of revenue would be very difficult. California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island each have paid family leave programs that were more easily implemented because of already existing state level payroll and income tax systems. Other jurisdictions offer paid family leave through State Disability Insurance (SDI) funds and temporary disability laws. Unfortunately, the District of Columbia does not have structures like these in place to expand coverage to all residents.
Over the summer, advocates worked with the Department of Employment Services (DOES), in partnership with Mayor Gray, to apply to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) for a grant to study the feasibility of a paid family leave program in the District. At the White House Summit on Working Families in June, President Obama announced that DOL’s Women’s Bureau and Employment and Training Administration will make $500,000 available for up to five grants. If awarded this funding, D.C. would be able to assess various aspects of a paid family leave program by estimating the expected costs, benefits, and economic impact; evaluating different models for delivery; and provide an analysis of education and outreach needs. The results of the grant competition are expected early this fall.
There is a major shift happening in national policy and paid family leave is a topic that many organizations are focusing on to support women and families in the workplace. Our office will continue to explore the option for expansion of paid family leave, researching alternatives, having conversations with the business community about the effects of paid family leave on the private sector, and supporting other federal policies that might help us progress toward inclusive paid family leave. This is an area where D.C. can lead, and we plan to!
If a D.C. government employee or HR advisor is seeking information about the law, please direct them to DCHR at (202) 442-9700. The agency has FMLA coordinators who will advise them.
*This post is part of an ongoing series of posts by Councilmember Grosso’s staff to support professional development. All posts are approved and endorsed by Councilmember Grosso.
by Anne Robinson
This week, Councilmember Grosso along with Councilmembers Catania, McDuffie, and Wells introduced the Fair Leave Act of 2014. The bill was referred to the Committee on Government Operations. The intent is to provide government employees up to 6 weeks of paid leave in connection with the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child, or the care of a family member who has a serious medical condition. By offering 6 weeks of paid leave for a government employee, we actively invest in families by supporting early childhood development, the health and welfare of residents, the retention of women in the workforce, and the vital role that parents play. I think that 6 weeks of paid leave is a very small price to pay for outcomes that have such a diverse impact.
Currently, the District of Columbia Family Medical Leave Act (D.C. FMLA) allows for all persons working for businesses with 50 employees or more to receive up to 16 weeks out of a continuous 24 month period of unpaid leave to care for a family member in the event of a birth, adoption, fostering, or illness. A family member is a person related to the employee by blood, legal custody, or marriage; a child who lives with the employee; or a person with whom the employee has shared a home with in the same year. The D.C. FMLA unpaid leave allows for 4 weeks longer than the federal FMLA. The definition of “family member” is inclusive and reflective of whom we label and identify as family here in the District. The law includes safeguards for the employee’s position and benefits during a period of unpaid leave and also protects the interests of the employer.
We believe that amending the D.C. Code to allow for 6 weeks of paid leave will have positive impacts on education, health and welfare, and human rights in our city.
Councilmember Grosso serves on the Committee on Education and he hears the testimony from parents and teachers alike about their concerns for the educational development of children. He is also involved in analyzing the District’s need for universal pre-kindergarten programs that start as early as three years of age to ensure that we are reaching the children who are not getting basic skills at home that help them to be school-ready. Studies have shown that beginning at birth, care-takers in the home foster the necessary development of communication, empathy, curiosity, creativity, and confidence. These are just some of the fundamental traits that children need to develop prior to beginning pre-school and kindergarten programs. When parents can nurture language and literacy starting from birth a child is better prepared both physically and emotionally when they enter school. When we provide parents with the tools they need to teach their children we set into motion foundations for a child’s future success.
Councilmember Grosso also serves as a member on the Committees on Health. From meetings with nurses, health care providers, and patient advocates we are constantly discussing ways that we can broaden and ease the recovery process for those who are ill and in need of care. One way to do this is to offer paid leave for a new mother to stay at home with her infant child so that she can recover from the delivery without the fear of the financial burdens that an individual or family faces when they must take leave from work. The average time to heal from the birth of child is 6 weeks, but that is under the best of circumstances. Recovery from a surgical cesarean delivery, complications from the delivery, or post-partum depression can increase the need for leave time. It is vital that our city provides high quality health care and assistance to low-income residents of the District who need it. If a parent has to choose between working and staying home with a new child it can delay regular well-baby checks-ups or immunization schedules, which is a serious public health concern.
Gender Roles and Balance
As gender roles in our society shift, the roles of men and women in the household are also changing. Positions and opportunities for women in the workplace are evolving while at the same time women must strive to be perceived as equal to their male counterparts. Women do not want to face employment setbacks for being pregnant or taking time off. This legislation gives either parent the benefit of taking time off to care for a family member without the fear of lost positions or wages. The legislation also promotes the necessary role that fathers and secondary caretakers play in their child’s development. When the government supports fathers to stay home with a newborn, studies have shown that this solidifies their involvement in the long-term care of the child. This bill acknowledges that not only is the man’s employment position or salary relevant, but also his involvement and concerns as a parent. We recognize that there is a great diversity of families and this bill is designed to be inclusive of all family structures.
The United States ranks second from the bottom, runner up to Pakistan, for paid maternity and paternity leave. Norway and Canada top the paid leave charts with four months of paid government leave for both parents. Even though our economic structure and system of government do not function the same way as these countries, it might be time to consider the economic benefits that can be gained from providing paid leave. California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island all offer 6 weeks of paid leave for all employees, which is funded through a payroll tax. The state of Washington passed paid leave legislation and is currently working on their budget for the program. In July 2013, the U.S. Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee approved a fiscal year 2014 spending measure that includes $5 million to support a new State Paid Leave Fund. The fund will provide planning and implementation grants to states wishing to establish paid leave programs and provide benefits to workers who need to take time off for reasons covered under FMLA.
Mayor Gray indicated in his State of District speech that he would also be introducing similar legislation that would allowed for 4 weeks paid leave for the primary caregiver and 2 weeks for the secondary caregiver. These are all signs of progress and we hope the District of Columbia will be next on the list to offer a similar benefit.
To offer District government employees 6 weeks of paid leave is economically sound. By having this policy in place, we will attract more qualified employees to work here and we will encourage the mothers to return to the workplace. By granting flexibly and time to recover and bond, parents will feel less pressure about their financial situation. And by having parents who are able to stay at home with the concern of financial burdens lifted they will be able to focus on the child. This concept loops us back to better public health, stronger families, and promoting the basic education and skills a child needs starting from birth to be healthy and school ready.
*All posts are approved and endorsed by Councilmember Grosso.