City, leading county in the region, country with paid parental leave for municipal employees | News | Pittsburgh

When Allegheny County Comptroller Chelsa Wagner sat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, she took time off – just 10 days – to have her first child.

“I was the first and only Democrat to give birth during my tenure,” she says. The women’s representatives before her had been mothers during their tenure, but it was all “apparently foreign there.” (Pennsylvania ranks 39e for the proportion of women in the legislature, according to the Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics.)

Her husband, meanwhile, was granted two months of paternity leave paid by his employer to stay home with their new child. She had her second child three years ago, a year after her tenure as County Comptroller began.

“I went through some of the hardships while seeing some of the benefits,” Wagner says of paid time off. “I’ve seen a lot of experiences from my friends too, in the public and private sectors.”

Last Labor Day, Wagner announced that the roughly 100 employees in his office – which is run independently from the rest of the county government – would have the option of paid family leave and emergency leave.

Wagner’s office was the first public employer in the region to offer the benefit – six weeks at two-thirds of the employee’s base salary. Last month, Pittsburgh and Allegheny County approved paid parental leave for their full-time, full-time, non-union employees for the birth, adoption or foster care of a new child. So far, an employee has taken a leave of absence.

“We know that when parents spend time with children from an early age, all of society benefits. And when we give employees the opportunity to enjoy family life, we tell them that we value their well-being, and that helps retention, ”said Natalia, Pittsburgh City Councilor. Rudiak, who presented the resolution to the city council.

Wagner’s office, city, and county are now offering their workers something that, compared to the rest of the developed world, the United States lags behind.

Of the 185 countries surveyed by the International Labor Organization, the United States is one of two countries that does not offer paid time off. (The other is Papua New Guinea.)

“All other developed countries offer paid maternity leave benefits through social security programs, so companies don’t have to bear the full cost,” said Heather Arnet, CEO of Women and Girls Foundation of Western Pennsylvania.

Opponents say companies cannot afford paid family leave. But Arnet says that according to the Society for Human Resource Management, every time an employee quits, it costs that employee between six and nine months salary to recruit and train a replacement.

“If the employer invested that money in retaining a valuable employee, the long-term return on investment would be much greater,” says Arnet.

That’s why Wagner jumped on board last year.

“One of our big concerns was the retention and attraction of talent,” says Wagner. Her office is mostly made up of auditors, IT professionals and accountants, who she says are difficult to recruit.

California, New Jersey and Rhode Island have implemented social security-type family leave for public and private sector workers, rather than imposing the responsibility on the employer. According to the National Partnership for Women & Families, another organization advocating for paid time off, the policies have improved worker retention and, in many cases, have come at no cost to businesses.

In Pennsylvania, the only option for private sector workers is the Federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – 12 weeks of unpaid leave, available to employees of companies with more than 50 workers. Additionally, employers can require employees to exhaust all sick leave and vacation days before taking them, a criterion that is not required by Wagner, city or county policy.

“So there is no time for follow-up doctor’s appointments or future sick days [upon return], and that makes life difficult for families, ”said city councilor Rudiak. “We want to be as forward thinking and progressive as possible. She also says the city chose the six-week deadline because daycares don’t accept newborns before that age. .

“Pennsylvania doesn’t do much beyond what federal law requires and beyond extended benefits for some state employees,” said Vicki Shabo, vice president of the National Partnership for Women and families. His organization gave Pennsylvania a grade of D in its report on family leave policies in the 50 states.

The 73,000 Commonwealth workers do not receive paid leave, but can take six months without pay while retaining their benefits, a policy that was implemented in 2007.

Starting this spring, under new Philadelphia law, businesses with 10 or more employees will be required to provide paid sick leave under the new legislation. Employees earn one hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked.

Rudiak says the Pittsburgh City Council cannot pass such legislation due to a 2009 Supreme Court ruling that essentially ruled that the city cannot regulate certain personnel matters of private companies.

The question is also debated on the national scene. The Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, which would be a national social security insurance leave program, was introduced in 2013 by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (DN.Y.) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), But remains in effect Committee.

As for increasing family leave benefits at the local level, Rudiak says, “When Pittsburgh leads, the region follows,” and she applauded county policy that followed suit. “I hope private industry will follow suit.”

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