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San Diego councilmember proposes generous parental leave for city employees

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Claire Trageser
/
KPBS
Ariana Steck works in her North Park apartment while her six-month-old son Griffin plays nearby, May 11, 2022.

Employees of the city of San Diego could see a big boost in their paid parental leave if a new proposal drafted by Councilmember Raul Campillo is approved.

Campillo submitted his plan to triple parental leave to Mayor Todd Gloria last week. Currently, city employees get four weeks of paid leave after the birth of their child. Campillo wants to boost that to 12 weeks, or 14 weeks if the employee has a C-section or other complications during delivery.

“It’s simply not enough time to only have four weeks,” Campillo said. “The last thing a city employee should have to worry about is rushing back to work right after having a child.”

The vast majority of workers in California get no fully paid parental leave. Instead, they receive job protections and partially paid leave via the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and the state’s Family Rights Act. Under the state law, new parents in California are eligible for up to six weeks of partially paid leave and another six weeks of unpaid leave.

The city does not use state leave, but instead has its own disability program for pregnant employees. Campillo’s proposal would also change that disability program, boosting pregnancy disability from six weeks, or eight weeks for a C-section, to eight weeks and 10 weeks, respectively.

An employee who becomes pregnant would receive both pregnancy disability and parental leave, meaning they could get up to five months of fully paid leave.

The plan would cost San Diego city taxpayers between $5 and $6 million a year — up from $1.5 million currently. But, Campillo said, it would recoup some costs by decreasing staff turnover and overtime.

“We are going to achieve multiple benefits: It will make our employees feel taken care of, they will stay to work with us, and we want to see good health outcomes for our employees and their newborn children,” he said.

In 2020, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors rejected a plan to provide eight weeks parental leave to county employees, leaving them with only what the state provides. That’s 60% to 70% of their pay for up to six weeks. Other cities, including Minneapolis and Chicago, recently boosted their paid leave to 12 weeks.

In a statement, Gloria said the plan would help with city staffing.

“My administration is focused on recruitment and retention of employees to build back our service levels, and this proposal aligns with our efforts to ensure the city is a competitive employer,” he said. “I’m grateful to Councilmember Campillo for his work on this and look forward to engaging further with him, our employees and stakeholders on enhancements to parental benefits.”

The proposal can be approved by Gloria without going before City Council. But it will require negotiations with city unions and council members vote on any new labor agreements.

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