St. Pete to offer paid maternity and paternity leave to employees

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St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman is hoping to set an example for the rest of the area when it comes to paid family leave. The United States ranks dead last among 37 other developed nations in family leave policies. That’s according to a study by the Pew Research Center that analyzes the amount of paid time off families get for the birth or adoption of a child. The United States does not provide any paid leave.

Kriseman announced a change in city policy today that would provide 100 percent paid leave to both men and women for the first six weeks following the birth, adoption or foster care intake of the employee’s child.

“Allowing our employees to spend quality, paid time with the newest members of their families is the right thing to do and makes for better parents and employees,” Kriseman said. “Most importantly, this policy will benefit our children — the future of St. Petersburg.”

The new policy also allows employees to continue to accrue leave such as vacation and sick time while on maternity or paternity leave. If the employee is eligible for a raise during the time of their raise, they still get it.

“I am the Deputy Mayor of the Sunshine City, but I am a mother first – it’s my most important job. The time we spend nurturing our babies in those early days is critical to our children and to ourselves as mothers and fathers,” deputy mayor Kanika Tomlin said. “In their first days, new parents’ focus should be on their families. We want to create an environment where support and preparation allows the time required for parents to step away while productivity otherwise continues. That’s why this policy is so important to keeping our city innovative, creative and competitive.”

One of the key components of this new policy is its extension to fathers. Rarely are fathers afforded paid time off to spend time with family following the birth or adoption of a child. While the Pew Research study does not look specifically at paternity leave, it does note that Norway, Ireland, Iceland, Slovenia, Sweden and Germany offer eight weeks of protected leave. That means the father may not necessarily be compensated for missed work, but he can’t lose his job for taking the time off either.

In a press release from the city, Kriseman notes that “research done by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows that paid leave increases the likelihood that workers will return to work after childbirth and improves employee morale. It has shown positive effects on workplace productivity and reduces costs to employers through improved employee retention.”

The new policy takes effect January 1 and does not impact the city’s budget.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.