Parental leave in the U.S. has always been a sour issue. Whereas European countries are often more generous - NPR reported that Swedish parents can split 480 days - just 12 percent of private workers in the U.S. can access paid maternity leave, according to the Department of Labor. Several studies have demonstrated that this deficit can have huge societal ramifications. That includes increasing rates of depression in mothers and impeding essential bonding time. Now some states and cities are finding ways to open access like never before.
San Francisco takes the lead
Of the various governing bodies taking steps to ensure more parents are covered, San Francisco might be the most progressive example. In April 2016, the city's Board of Supervisors passed the "Paid Parental Leave Ordinance." California's Paid Family Leave program already pays out 55 percent of a worker's weekly wages; under the new ordinance, the employer must pay the remaining 45 percent. The coverage, which can also be used to care for ill family members, is paid via the employee's contributions to the State Disability Insurance program. While this move will undoubtedly improve the lives of thousands of workers across San Francisco, the question begs as to how this will impact the employers.
As the Society of Human Resource Management explained, there are several components that businesses must be aware of before the ordinance takes effect:
- On January 1, 2017, companies with 50 or more employees must be in full compliance.
- By July 1, 2017, that compliance mandate extends to companies with 35 or more workers.
- By January 1, 2018, companies with 20 or more employees must be in full compliance.
- To be covered by the ordinance, people have to have worked for the company at least 90 days before taking their leave.
- Employees must also work at least eight hours per week in San Francisco, and 40 percent of their overall weekly schedule.
- Companies are only responsible for "supplemental compensation." That means handling wages that aren't covered by the state and that don't exceed the employees' gross weekly wage.
- Under the ordinance, employers must maintain proper records for at least three years.
- The city has also drafted a notice that must be published in the office space.
- Those companies who aren't in compliance will be forced to provide "appropriate relief," including payment of any withheld supplemental compensation or even additional coverage.
The City of San Francisco has provided a helpful FAQ, which also touches on the collective bargaining agreement, additional employee rights and much more. It's essential that employees recognize this expansion in coverage and take the necessary steps to protect the organization. Doing so will ensure everyone, from employees to executives, continue to prosper in both their personal and professional lives.
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