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Seattle Passes Law to Give Workers 12 Weeks of Paid Parental Leave

On Monday Seattle City Council voted to give city employees up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave.


In a unanimous vote on Monday, the Seattle City Council approved a bill to offer city employees up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave, effectively tripling the four weeks currently available to City employees.

Mayor Ed Murray requested the change 2 years ago, and at that time the council approved the existing benefit for new parents, making Seattle the first city in the Pacific Northwest – and indeed, one of the first cities in the U.S. – to provide its workers with paid parental leave.

Employees will be eligible for the 12 week leave period after six months working for the city. The benefit will apply not only to parents who give birth, but also to those who adopt or enroll in foster care and legal guardianship programs.

The paid leave must be used within 12 months of a birth or a placement.

“No person should be forced to choose between their job and caring for their family,” Murray claimed in a statement, urging local businesses “to follow our lead.”

Monday’s legislation will also provide city employees with a new benefit — up to 4 weeks of paid leave to workers who must care for family members with serious health conditions.  That four week coverage will be available every 12 months, but employees would first need to use some of their personal sick leave and vacation leave.

The new measures are an important step in the fight for gender equity and equal pay. “It’s no secret that family-care obligations often fall to women, and particularly women of color,” Councilmember M. Lorena González said in a statement.

“Today we remove institutional barriers to employment opportunities at the city and once again, lead the country by living and practicing our values.”

Extending the parental-leave benefit from 4 to 12 weeks will cost Seattle an additional $2.6 million per year, according to the legislation’s fiscal note. Offering the new family-care benefit will cost an additional $436,000 per year, for a total of about $3 million.

When Councilmember Kshama Sawant proposed 12 weeks of paid parental leave last year, her proposal was voted down.

Seattle employs more than 11,000 workers. Beginning in March, their salaries will be posted on the city’s website, according to a statement from the mayor’s office.

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