Austin Could Become the First Texas City to Mandate Paid Parental Leave
2:00 pm, June 6th | by Colette McIntyre
Austin, I always knew you would impress me someday. I’ll be honest: for awhile, I thought I had misplaced my support. We’ve certainly had some rough times. I mean, sure, your live music and annual O. Henry Pun-Off are great — I’ve even been known to get behind the whole college football thing you have going — but the incessant incidents of racism and the fact that you’re a filming location for Transformers 4 really tested my affections. With all that said, today I found the glimmer of hope that I’ve been looking for: if a recent proposal goes through, you may become the first Texan city to offer paid parental leave to city employees. Parental leave — meaning a woman or a man could stay home after a birth or adoption and not be penalized. Take that, gender roles!
As federal law currently stands, employees are only guaranteed job protection and up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave following the birth or adoption of a child. It is up to employers whether to offer any paid time off during that time period. According to the Austin American-Statesman, a new proposal by Austin Council Member Bill Spelman would grant thirty days of paid parental leave to a majority of the city’s 12,000 employees — including same-sex partners. It’s estimated that the proposal, which is co-sponsored by Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Council Member Mike Martinez, would cost the capital city about $321, 000 a year.
Spelman told the American-Statesmanthat paid parental leave would benefit the city as well as its employees: “It’s good for the long-term health of a family for mothers and fathers to spend time with a newborn child or a newly adopted child,” he said. “And the reason so many (private companies) have begun providing paid family leave is that it’s good for their bottom line. It’s easier to recruit and retain employees, and when they come back to work, they are more productive because they are not worrying that they should have spent more time with their children.”
Spelman’s proposal has its detractors. Michael Quinn Sullivan, president of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, believes paid parental leave would be too costly. “When you start offering this kind of highly lucrative superbenefit to all employees, that’s expensive for the taxpayer,” he said. “Just because a private company offers these benefits doesn’t mean a government should. We’ve gotten in the bad habit of comparing government to business. Government is not a business.”
As Andrea Grimes wrote on RH Reality Check, Sullivan’s comments keep “with the philosophy of many Texas Tea Partiers, who support measures forcing pregnant Texans to carry to term, but not efforts to offer greater public support for children and families.”
The City Council will consider Spelman’s plan on Thursday; if approved, Austin would initiate the paid parental leave program on October 1st, the start of the city’s fiscal year.