Seattle to offer city employees paid parental leave

SEATTLE -- Working for the city of Seattle is about to get sweeter.

Starting next year, employees expecting children will be eligible for paid parental leave.

Longtime City Councilwoman Jean Godden argues it’s a crucial step toward making Seattle more family-friendly.  “If you have a baby, you’re expected back at work the next day,” said Godden.  “The only way that you can stay home is if you take unpaid leave.”

Godden decided to take on this issue after hearing from several city employees who were using vacation days and paid sick days in order to care for newborns.  And because you can burn through those benefits pretty quickly, parents often had to come back to work too soon.

The new policy, which the full City Council is expected to ratify by the end of the month, will apply to both mothers and fathers of newborns.  It will allow either parent to be home during those critical first weeks and months of life.  It will also apply to employees who are adopting children.

“It’s absolutely critical,”said Ben Enfield, a city engineer who expects to adopt a child with his husband.  “Family time spent bonding is one of the most important things that can happen,” he said.  “It will be a benefit for my kids, and it will a benefit for Seattle kids in general.”

The details of the new paid parental leave policy are still being worked out, including just how  much time off will be allowed.

It’s the latest in a string of benefits that the city has bestowed on workers in recent years, including a $15 minimum wage and paid sick leave.