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Council approves nation-leading paid parental leave program


Metropolitan King County
Council News

Council approves nation-leading paid parental leave program


Up to 12 weeks of leave for new moms and dads


Starting next year, King County employees who welcome a new child will have 12 weeks of paid leave to stay home with their families. The Metropolitan King County Council gave its approval to legislation that will create a program providing certain County employees with paid parental leave to run concurrently with unpaid federal and state family and medical leave.

“It is past time that the United States join the ranks of every single other developed nation in the world, and ensure that new moms and dads have an opportunity to bond with their child without sacrificing the very wages needed to support a family,” said Councilmember Rod Dembowski, sponsor of the legislation. “Paid parental leave is not only the right thing to do for parents and kids, but as the private sector has demonstrated, it’s also fiscally responsible as it aids in recruitment and retention of valuable employees. As one of the top ten employers in the State of Washington, King County has an obligation to lead and be a model employer.”

“This is a landmark action for King County,” said Council Vice Chair Jane Hague, a co-sponsor of the ordinance. “Parents should not have to choose between family and work.”

“We owe it to our employees to provide the best benefits we can offer including the ability to care for their newly born and adopted children,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett. “This parental leave policy will be a big step towards showing that King County is a family friendly government.”

The adopted legislation grew out of a motion adopted by the Council this past spring, co-sponsored by Councilmembers Dembowski, Gossett and Hague, declaring that it is county policy to establish a paid family leave program for King County employees. The motion also requested the Executive develop a work plan and recommendations for implementing a paid parental leave program along with a cost analysis of the potential financial impact of the program. The Executive sent a cost-benefit analysis and a recommendation to the Council in September and followed up with a work plan and proposed legislation in November.

The legislation directs the creation of a one-year pilot project providing paid parental leave for certain county employees. Those who can participate include both employees who are not represented by unions and represented employees whose unions have agreed to the terms of the program. To be eligible for the program, one of the following must occur in 2016:

• The birth of a child,
• The adoption of a child, or,
• The foster-to-adopt placement of a child.

The employee will receive their regular pay for the length of the leave. The duration of the leave will be 12 weeks when combined with all but one week of the vacation that the employee has accrued and all but one week of the sick leave that the employee has accrued.

Quotes from regional leaders regarding King County’s achievement:

“On behalf of our more than one million members across the nation, I thank Councilmember Dembowski for introducing this important legislation in King County,” said MomsRising Executive Director, Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner. “Providing access to paid parental leave is a vital step toward improving economic security for our families, our communities, and our economy. As we continue to fight for a statewide and national paid family leave bill, we applaud King County for leading by example and showing that investments in family leave are rewarded by productive, loyal employees and healthy and successful children, all of which help to build a more stable, successful, and prosperous society and economy. Thank you to King County Council for leading on leave and taking this huge step forward towards change.”

“We applaud King County's leadership in recognizing the importance of paid parental leave in advancing health and economic security,” said Janet Chung, Legal and Legislative Counsel for Legal Voice. “Providing 12 weeks of paid leave will go a long way toward ensuring a healthy start for children, keeping women connected to the workforce, and allowing all new parents to continue earn crucial income for their growing families.”

“As King County moves forward to create the best run government, paid parental leave is another essential piece in the compensation structure that will attract and retain quality employees,” said Dustin Frederick, Business Manager for the Public Safety Employees Union Local 519. “On behalf of the Labor Coalition we fully support Rod's efforts and thank him for being on the cutting edge in helping to shape King County's future.”

“We know that babies thrive best when their parents can spend those first weeks of life with them, with lasting benefits for their health and development,” said Dr. Marilyn P. Watkins, Policy Director of the Economic Opportunity Institute. “We also know that moms who have ample paid maternity leave are healthier, more likely to be employed a year later, and earn more than mothers without. So providing paid parental leave for all County employees will help families and our economy prosper. This is a great step forward toward the day when all parents and babies in our country have this commonsense benefit.”

“We applaud King County for taking this step for its employees,” said Liz Vivian, Executive Director of Women’s Funding Alliance. “Paid parental leave is critical to the long-term economic stability of women and their families. It also makes good business sense; access to paid leave allows women to continue in their jobs and on the path to future leadership and career growth.”

"All parents deserve the opportunity to bond with new children in their home,” said Janis Avery, Treehouse CEO. “For foster parents, that connection is key to helping children in their home acclimate and thrive in their new environment, as well as experience a real childhood.”

"Many families can’t afford to take uncompensated time off to bond with a newborn child and that hurts children, working moms and working families generally,” said Michael Gonzales, Teamsters Local 174. “The Teamsters commend Councilmember Dembowski for addressing this issue head on with his paid parental leave policy and hope others follow suit.”
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