On Friday, February 17, 2017, Mayor Murray signed legislation assuring that no City employee will have to choose between taking care of a loved one or earning a paycheck.
When a new child is born or adopted, City of Seattle employees will now have a minimum guaranteed twelve weeks of paid assistance, and when a family member has a health crisis employees will be guaranteed four weeks of paid family leave to care for that loved one.
I applaud Mayor Murray, the Human Services Department, the City Budget Office and many union leaders for working together to create a Paid Family Leave program that will truly support our employees. I also thank former Councilmember Jean Godden who started us down this path, former Councilmember Sally Clark at the UW and Councilmember González for championing this thoughtful legislation.
This legislation is a great investment in our most important asset – dedicated and loyal employees.
I am particularly sensitive to the goals of this comprehensive program, balancing both the needs of new parents as well as the needs of many employees who care for a family member. In my professional career I have experienced events in both of these categories and I can attest to the importance of having supportive employers and flexible leave available.
When I was a young mother, I had no paid parental leave and no available local family support. My mom would have loved to have been helpful but was physically unable to be with me.
I would have loved to stay home for twelve weeks with my son but for financial reasons had to get back to work as soon as possible. Crazy, but true: My son was born on a Wednesday and I was back in the office on Saturday, schlepping Paul with me, to finish a legal brief that was due on Monday. It was a challenging time for me, and this is still reality for many new parents.
More recently, my husband and I were primary care givers for our aging parents. My father lived with us for the last year of his life which proved to be a wonderful year. He was a big guy who never complained, and the time we had with him was worth every minute.
My husband and I were lucky to have jobs where we could flex our schedules and we could get Dad ready for his day and be home to make him dinner. Many people don’t have that luxury.
The paid family leave component of the City’s new law will provide leave so all of our employees –in addition to bonding with a new child — may care for aging or sick family members. As our workplace and workforce change, our benefits have adapted accordingly.
I am proud to have co-sponsored this legislation. As employers, we know that our new plan will bring us in line with other industrialized nations, and data confirms our city will benefit from deeply loyal workers and healthy families. I know that other private businesses are providing this kind of comprehensive family leave across our nation, and more will following the City of Seattle’s lead as well.