LA plan would pro­vide 18 weeks of parental leave

The Tribune (SLO) - - News / Obituaries - BY EMILY ALPERT REYES

LOS AN­GE­LES

New and soon-to-be par­ents work­ing for Los An­ge­les busi­nesses would be guar­an­teed up to 18 weeks of paid leave – at as much as 100 per­cent of their usual wages – un­der a new pro­posal in­tro­duced Tues­day at City Hall.

City Coun­cil­woman Nury Mar­tinez and Coun­cil­man David Ryu, who in­tro­duced the plan Tues­day, ar­gued that it would sup­port fam­ily bond­ing and help busi­nesses re­tain em­ploy­ees.

“Paid parental leave is good for fam­i­lies. It’s good for busi­ness. And it’s good for Los An­ge­les,” Ryu told re­porters, ad­ding, “Par­ents should not have to choose be­tween pay­ing the bills and rais­ing a fam­ily.”

Many de­tails re­main to be ham­mered out by city staffers, in­clud­ing whether small busi­nesses and non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions would be ex­empt from the re­quire­ment and whether the city would help off­set the costs for com­pa­nies. But the fledg­ling pro­posal could sig­nif­i­cantly bol­ster the paid leave that new and soon-to-be par­ents would be guar­an­teed in the city.

Cal­i­for­nia is ahead of much of the coun­try in pro­vid­ing paid leave for new par­ents, of­fer­ing el­i­gi­ble em­ploy­ees 60 per­cent to 70 per­cent of their pre­vi­ous pay for up to six weeks. That time is paid for out of a pay­roll tax de­ducted from em­ployee pay­checks.

But only a frac­tion of Cal­i­for­nia par­ents who are el­i­gi­ble take that time off, and poorer work­ers have been less likely to do so. Mar­tinez said Tues­day that ex­ist­ing state and fed­eral pro­grams “of­ten cater to white-col­lar economies while leav­ing out the low-wage work­ers and peo­ple of color.”

Cal­i­for­nia also pro­vides dis­abil­ity ben­e­fits for preg­nant and post­par­tum moth­ers, which can in­crease the amount of par­tially paid time off for par­ents by up to 12 weeks. That brings the time off that many Cal­i­for­nia work­ers can po­ten­tially take to 18 weeks at 60 to 70 per­cent of their pay, Ryu said Tues­day.

Un­der the new pro­posal, L.A. em­ploy­ers would have to make sure that their work­ers get up to 18 weeks of paid time off around the birth, fos­ter­ing or adop­tion of a child, at as much as 100 per­cent of their pay. Em­ploy­ers would have to make up the dif­fer­ence be­tween any ex­ist­ing state ben­e­fits the work­ers re­ceive and their nor­mal wages.

“This would be a huge step for­ward for work­ing fam­i­lies and help them make mean­ing­ful the prom­ise of paid fam­ily leave from the state,” said Ju­lia Par­ish, se­nior staff at­tor­ney with the non­profit Le­gal Aid at Work, which ad­vo­cated for a sim­i­lar or­di­nance to boost pay dur­ing parental leave in San Fran­cisco.

Al­though par­ents would be el­i­gi­ble for up to 100 per­cent of their pre­vi­ous pay, the draft pro­posal says the city would cap the to­tal com­pen­sa­tion re­ceived by el­i­gi­ble work­ers, lim­it­ing the max­i­mum to the an­nual cost of liv­ing for a par­ent and child in Los An­ge­les. That amount is cur­rently es­ti­mated to be around $65,000, ac­cord­ing to a Ryu aide cit­ing 2017 Cal­i­for­nia Bud­get and Pol­icy Cen­ter sta­tis­tics.

Em­ploy­ees would be el­i­gi­ble if they worked in­side Los An­ge­les city lim­its for com­pa­nies that meet spe­cific re­quire­ments, in­clud­ing with- hold­ing a per­cent­age of worker earn­ings for State Dis­abil­ity In­sur­ance Tax pay­ments, Mar­tinez and Ryu said in a pol­icy brief de­tail­ing their pro­posal.

The Val­ley In­dus­try and Com­merce Assn., which ad­vo­cates for San Fer­nando Val­ley busi­nesses, called the plan “an ex­tremely ex­pen­sive one­size-fits-all parental leave pol­icy” and com­plained that it “places the bur­den squarely on em­ploy­ers, many of whom will be un­able to pay.”

“By man­dat­ing one par­tic­u­lar vi­sion of parental leave – 18 weeks of sub­si­dized, fully paid leave – this mo­tion leaves em­ploy­ers and their par­ent em­ploy­ees no fi­nan­cial wig­gle room to work out a so­lu­tion that works for their in­di­vid­ual cir­cum­stances,” the group’s leg­isla­tive af­fairs direc­tor, El­iz­a­beth Haw­ley, said in a state­ment Tues­day.

Haw­ley added that the group feared “un­in­tended con­se­quences of such a well-in­tended but po­ten­tial mis­guided pol­icy,” such as com­pa­nies mov­ing out of Los An­ge­les.

Mar­tinez and Ryu sug­gested that the re­quire­ment could be phased in over three years, with the big­gest busi­nesses af­fected first.

Their mo­tion, in­tro­duced Tues­day, asks for city at­tor­neys and staffers to re­port back on op­tions for a Paid Parental Leave Or­di­nance, an­a­lyze its po­ten­tial ef­fects on small busi­nesses and how the city could mit­i­gate them, and come up with a time­line and frame­work for im­ple­men­ta­tion and en­force­ment.

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