All non-union city employees will receive six weeks of paid parental leave starting in 2016 thanks to an executive order from Mayor de Blasio announced Tuesday.
"I remember after Chiara was born, just our economic reality was that Chirlane had to go back to work very quickly," Mayor de Blasio told WNYC, which first reported the announcement. "She has always felt a tension over that. She didn't feel good about not being able to spend more time with Chiara."
The Mayor's office says that the new terms will be applicable to 20,000 city employees, and will cover six weeks at 100% pay rate. Combined with existing sick and vacation leave, some employees will be eligible for 12 paid weeks, total.
The policy will cover maternity and paternity leave, as well as adoption and foster care.
Parental leave has not historically been a legal requirement in New York State. However, the national Family and Medical Leave act mandates up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected parental leave following the birth of a child. Time off due to pregnancy complications can be subtracted from this. The law applies to public agencies, public and private schools, and any company with more than 50 employees, so long as the employee meets a lengthy list of additional requirements.
Scorah and Towndrow, both occasional Gothamist contributors, work full-time—Scorah as an editorial producer at Scholastic, and Towndrow is a freelance visual effects artist. "Without a solid paid parental leave program in the US, you can choose to step away from your job, but then you lose your health insurance and your income," Towndrow told us last month. "You're putting your child more at risk."
In a heartbreaking op-ed published in the NY Times, Scorah elaborates on the painful bind she and her partner found themselves in, and their realization that day care was the only feasible option. She writes, "I justified it a million ways, as one justifies when one has run out of alternatives."
In response to the Mayor's announcement, Scorah said that while six weeks is a "commendable step," the new guidelines could go much farther.
"All progress forward on this issue is a relief to me, but the narrow segment of the population who will receive this, along with the extremely short duration of leave it guarantees illustrates the gaping need for the United States to change its outdated policies and pass a national parental leave system that works for all families," she said. "We are so far behind."
Out of 41 countries highlighted in a recent International Labor Organization study, the US mandates the shortest parental leave. Iceland has the second-shortest leave, at 13 weeks, but it's entirely compensated. The UK and Australia mandate an entire year, partially compensated.
While the city's 300,000 union employees are not covered by the policy—any changes to their existing contracts must be negotiated through collective bargaining—the Mayor's office has stated that it is "ready to immediately enter talks with its municipal unions about extending the policy to their covered employees."
"[Service workers' union] 32BJ SEIU and our 70,000 members in New York applaud Mayor de Blasio and his administration for this important step forward in the continued fight for paid leave for working men and women," said 32BJ President Hector Figueroa in a statement. "We look forward to working with the administration on this policy."
According to de Blasio's announcement, the city plans to fund the new parental leave initiative—estimated to cost about $15 million annually—by capping vacation days at 25 for long-term employees with at least 15 years on the job (down from 27). The city will also redact a planned 0.47% raise planned for non-union managerial workers for July 2017.