San Francisco’s Parental Leave Gold Rush


San Francisco is one of the most affluent and liberal cities in California.  Starting its roots during the gold rush era, the city is constantly flourishing with all of the action happening within Silicon Valley.  The city has always been very liberal when it comes to groundbreaking issues such as gay rights, feminism, legalization of medicinal cannabis, and other controversial ideas.  Starting this week, San Francisco tackled one of the most talked-about issues in the workforce: parental leave.

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Since Tuesday, San Francisco became the first place in the United States to pass a law mandating six weeks of full-paid parental leave.  This initiative will apply to mothers, fathers, adoptive parents, and even same-sex couples.  Businesses with more than 20 employees must start paying the remaining 45% of their employee’s wages during their parental leave.  Any company with 35 or more employees must comply with the law by July 1st 2017.  Parents can expect this law to take full effect starting in January 2017.

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The law will update California’s current statewide policy of requiring six weeks of parental leave at 55% of pay, which is currently covered by the state disability fund.  One week earlier, New York passed a law requiring a similar measure of 12 weeks of partially paid parental leave at 50% of pay.  New York plans to roll out the idea starting January 2018.  Rhode Island, New Jersey, and California are the only 3 states that require partially paid family leave in the country.

Before this milestone, many technological companies stepped up their own parental leave policies.  Companies such as Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, and Google announced their own parental leave policy for their employees.  In fact, Twitter announced their offer on 20 weeks of fully paid parental leave for any newborn.  Their policy will take effect starting on May 1st.

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Full-time paid parental leave isn’t the first business policy where San Francisco became ahead of the curve.  Due to the rising cost of living, San Francisco raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour in 2014.  The city also initiated the first paid sick leave policy for businesses back in 2006.

This PR miracle stems from a widespread complaint from parents across the country.  The Unites States is the only industrialized nation without any paid parental leave policy.  Our country currently lags on one of the most important issues for all parents in the workforce.  While individual states are starting to implement their own policies, other developed countries already have generous paid parental leave policies in place.  For example, Finland has one of the most generous newborn policies.  Not only do parents receive full pay while nursing their children, but the Finnish government provides a ‘new baby package’ for everyone.  Each package includes a bed, sheets, blankets, sleeping bag, hats, clothing, and various accessories necessary for keeping the baby healthy.

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It’s no surprise that a city like San Francisco became the forefront of a widespread issue for new parents.  San Francisco is the land of progressive dreams that happen each year.  Harvey Milk was the first openly gay politician to hold a seat as city supervisor in 1977.  Milk is just one of many icons that shape what San Francisco is all about.  We may be lagging behind on such an essential issue for parents, but we are making changes now.  It takes one place to make a huge difference that will rock the nation.

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